Coltrane at the Vanguard (Ravi Coltrane)
Ravi Coltrane's quartet is at the Village Vanguard this week, and that in itself is a marker of how confidentballsy wouldn't be a stretchthis musician has become in recent years. It's bold enough for John Coltrane's son to take up the tenor saxophone as a trade. It takes the next level of audacity to lead a band at the club where Dad laid down maybe the greatest live jazz recording ever. But the ultimate display of self-assurance from Coltrane fils came during his improv on an original tune, "Thirteenth Floor," when he casually quoted a few lines from "A Love Supreme."
The headline, though, from the set I saw Thursday night is that Ravi Coltrane, who's now 47 (he was just 2 when his father passed away), has grown worthy of the mantle. Is he "the new Coltrane," other than genetically? No, but he's in the top echelon of living tenors. He has a fine, full-blooded tone, in some ways a bit reminiscent of J.C.'s (it's straight, no vibrato) but warmer, mellower. And he has monster technique, plowing through a shroud knot like Monk's "Skippy" with alarming (but not mere show-off) speed.
He also played several of the tunes from his new Blue Note album Spirit Fiction, which I've praised in this space. Which leads to my one (slight) caveat). That disc featured two different bands, each superb in its way. He's playing at the Vanguard with an entirely different band, not quite as deft and zesty as either of the ones on the album. Maybe they're still finding their way through the back alleys of the original materialthough they stormed through the Monk tunes with pinache and virtuosity.