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Ravi Coltrane

Sunday June 12 was such a sad and tragic day. I am always truck by the irony that we live in a world full of hate and suffering, and love and beauty. And so I went to see Ravi Coltrane and his new sextette The Void at SF Jazz Sunday night, knowing that I would be uplifted and inspired. With Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Glenn Zalesky on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Kush Abadey on drums, the sextette was fresh and new, but also firmly rooted in the tradition. Ravi seems to have relaxed over the years, matured as a soloist, and accepted his rightful place in one of the most celebrated families in music. Eubanks is a marvelous soloist, and the compositions took full advantage of all the timbers and textures the instruments allowed. Abadey's drumming was abstract and funky and groovy all at the same time; a young Jack DeJohnette. Zalensky had marvelous touch, and conjured Herbie and Bill Evans with his command of space. Six musicians, white and black, together listening to each other at the highest level of musical expression. What a fitting antidote to hatred. Later, at the Zuni Cafe, I saw the LGTBQ Rainbow Community marching down Market Street, peacefully holding candles. Love will always conquer hate.
This year has been very rich in musical performances, and as is often the case, I'm behind in writing about them. Two weeks ago Ravi Coltrane had a residency at SF Jazz to comemorate the 50th Anniversary of his father's landmark recording, A Love Supreme. The Thursday show featured Joe Lovano, Geri Allen, Drew Gress on bass, and Ralph Peterson on drums. The music was evocative of A Love Supreme, without being imitative. I first saw Ravi at a late night jam session in Paris 20 years ago at an Antonio Hart gig. Betty Carter and Jacky Terrasson also sat in. Being named after two of the greatest musicians of the 20th century is a lot to live up to. It's taken Ravi a while to come into his own, but he's done it. He is relaxed with his legacy, and what he can contribute to it. Loving has been a master for years, and they play off each other beautifully, with Lovano channeling the whole history of the music. I recently discovered a Lovano recording, Symphonic, with a big band and orchestra live in Europe. Highly recommended. In the coming year I'll write more about recordings in addition to live shows. Peace!

Terence Blanchard played the SF Jazz Miner Auditorium for the opening of the fall season this week.  A very diverse and eclectic band, with Ravi Coltrane on soprano and tenor sax, Brice Winston on tenor also, Benin guitarist Lionel Loueke, Cuban pianist Fabian Almazan, Joshua Crumbly on bass, and filling in without rehearsal (presumably a sound check?) local Justin Brown on drums.  Born in New Orleans in 1962, Blanchard is blessed with the big tone and confident phrasing that trumpeters from the birthplace of jazz claim.  Touring with Lionel Hampton, and then replacing Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Blanchard rose to prominence as a performer, teacher, and film composer.  Best known for scoring many of Spike Lee's films, one of my favorites is for the film Backbeat, a fictional account of the early Beatles.  Generous in praise and solo space for his bandmates, he claimed that he was the least accomplished of the crew.  While that is not quite accurate, his playing is rooted in the hard bop he grew up playing, and most of the modern ideas were provided by the young band.  The pianist Fabian Almazan has an abstract and terse attack reminiscent of Paul Bley, as did Lionel, sounding far more abstract and less African than he has with Herbie Hancock.  Crumbly and Brown were amazingly locked in and inventive, all the more so for not having rehearsed.  (Why rehearse when you can gig is one of my favorite sayings).  But the real revealtion was Ravi Coltrane.  Now 48, he resembles his father physically more than ever.  And he is playing with a confidence and freedom and joy that I haven't heard in the past.  I realized that he is no longer afraid of being compared to his father (he even played some 'Trane like channels through chords that he would have consciously avoided in the past).  He has found his own way - probably a lot harder than it is for most of us without a legend to live up to.           

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