Jazz Improv
Spring 2005
Ravi Coltrane
cd review by Joshua Musselwhite

Ravi Coltrane deserves a medal for even playing the saxophone. I can’t imagine how much pressure there is being the son of perhaps the most influential jazz artist ever: the infamous, the immortal John Coltrane. Every jazz saxophonist has studied Trane to a certain point, but how about Ravi? If he does, no doubt he gets slammed by critics for sounding like his Dad. If he doesn’t, he misses so much of the jazz language. Most likely he has studied some Trane – I couldn’t imagine he hasn’t – but more importantly than who his father was is that Ravi Coltrane has found his own distinct and individual voice on the saxophone. That voice shines on one of his best albums to date, In Flux.

The album begins with a soft and melancholy composition of Ravi’s called “The Message.” A short two minutes and four seconds, the tune is a duet between pianist Luis Perdomo and Ravi on tenor saxophone. At a slow trot, it is perhaps the most lyrical and poignant he has written. At the end of the track a voice can be heard counting off the next tune. In an up-paced swing, “Coincide” features Ravi on soprano playing a repetitive melodic figure focusing on the interval of a descending fourth. It is one of six of Ravi’s originals that appear on the album. Unlike his previous album Mad 6, this album focuses on new music. As Ravi states, “We had many ideas and attempted a lot of different music. The goal, of course, was to find things that felt good and that could work together as a whole.” Perhaps that “good feeling” can account for two of the compositions, “Variation III” and “Variation I,” being free based. The level of communication and connection between the band members shown here is amazing. At times, I wonder if some of it wasn’t written prior to recording it. The rest of the tunes, besides “United” by Wayne Shorter, come from members of the band each contributing one.

As Ravi’s fourth album as a leader, In Flux is a beautiful and fascinating album. With sweet ballads to the avant-garde, In Flux can offer something to each jazz fan, emotionally and intellectually. After all, isn’t that what all albums strive for?