Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ON BLUE NOTE DEBUT, RAVI COLTRANE REIGNS SUPREME

Ravi, it must’ve been tough establishing your own brand given your parents were John and Alice Coltrane. Many jazz fans and critics expected you to continue their legacy, but you set out to build your own. You always struck me as a man serious about making your own way.  I picked up on that the first time I heard you perform live. In 2006, I caught the concert you and Alice played to commemorate you dad's 80th birthday. The concert was held in  Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor Michigan. Charlie Haden and Roy Haynes were in the band.

The band played tunes from your mom’s album Translinear Light.  During the concert, video footage of your dad performing at some jazz festival was shown. A year later, I checked out your set at the Detroit International Jazz Festival,  and I noticed you have some of your dad’s mannerisms. Like your dad, when you improvised, you clutched the tenor and gyrated with it  asif you’re keeping it from jumping from your hands and running off the bandstand.

A few weeks, before the concert  at Hill Auditorium, I interviewed you for a Metrotimes’ article  headlined Ravi’s Giant Steps. You probably forgot what we discussed. I reread that article over the weekend after I played your debut for Blue Note Records Spirit Fiction. I thought about some of the things we discussed.

For example, your first high profile gig was with drummer Elvin Jones’ band. You  felt you're too inexperienced to be in his band. Jones felt otherwise. I understood why you're  afraid to tour with him. Jones was the man who pushed your dad to unimaginable improvisational heights. Jones saw something great in you that you're blind to back then. 

Bob Thiele who produced some of your dads albums asked you to do a cover album of your dad’s music. You refused, explaining the best way to honor him was to not spend your career covering his music. That was an honest and a bold statement. You could’ve made a lot of money going around the country impersonating your dad. 

Ravi, I’ve followed your recording career. Spirit Fiction is your most definitive album. In Flux, From the Round Box, and Moving Pictures were good, and you swung on each, but Spirit Fiction feels like your official mission statement. You swing on a few cuts Klepto and Who Wants Ice Cream for example. Overall, Spirit Fiction is more about virtuosity than swinging.

Spirit Fiction is your first offering in three years. Clearly, you spent considerable time plotting every square inch of it right down to the song selections, to giving Geri Allen the piano chair, to hiring Joe Lovano to produce the project. I wonder if Lovano convinced you to move to Blue Note.

Anyway, it was a smart move. Blue Note has been taking a lot of risks lately. Lovano has been with the company for nearly 30 years, so who better to integrate you into the family. Now that you have a stellar body of work, Spirit Fiction being the best, maybe it’s finally time for you to cover your dad’s music.
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