I’m so far behind in listening to the records I’m buying I haven’t even thought about reviewing them, but this first new release got me plenty motivated.
Highly anticipated doesn’t even begin to describe the hype leading up to the new record from Christian Scott, the long-heralded Next Great Trumpeter. For the most part this 23-track release improves upon the big step forward taken on Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, but I’m not sure there was really enough quality material to fill a double album. There are probably 12-15 solid tracks, which leaves 5 or so (not counting the three interludes) that probably should not have made the record. As is so often the case with double albums I was left wondering after the first listen why they didn’t just pare it down to what would have been a very strong 12 song set. Not to say the high points don’t get very high, the track below has more pulse than I’ve come to expect from this group and is one of my favorites for it.
If there was ever a player who could’ve made a nice career for himself by simply phoning it in, it was Ravi Coltrane. As the heir to the saxophone throne he could have put together a strong band of capable sidemen and successfully repackaged his father’s tunes as the ultimate tribute act. That he chose to forge his own path rather than take what was handed to him has been a gift for all of us, and in a way the most honest of tributes to his two brilliant parents.
Spirit Fiction is my favorite of Coltrane’s dates as a leader so far. The record is made up of 11 songs performed by two different ensembles, something that can come across as a bit of a stunt but works well in this setting- the two groups are different enough that it doesn’t seem unnecessary, but not so disparate that the record feels potholed. The record maintains the familiar examination and inquiry of Coltrane’s earlier dates, but manages to sound a little less academic. Co-producer Joe Lovano guests on a couple tracks, including a take on the Paul Motian penned “Fantasm”. Who knows how many times Lovano played the tune with Motian, but here it is a drummer-less trio with Coltrane, Lovano and the brilliant pianist Geri Allen, perhaps a sort of “missing man formation” for Motian. Beautiful.
Another hyped release, for some reason I went into this expecting to not like it. As much as I love Oh’s playing on Dave Douglas’ GPS Vol.2 , I wasn’t sold on her as a leader. That went out the window about halfway through track one. The compositions are the strength throughout, with “Mr. M” my favorite, a perfect tribute to Charles Mingus. The big surprise, for me at least, was hearing Oh shred on electric bass. I’ve only known her as a double bass player, and a very good one, but her playing on “Deeper Than Happy” caught me off guard in a very good way. Hints of Jaco and Marcus.