Live Performance Review – Ravi Coltrane at the Catalina Bar and Grill

Ravi Coltrane Ravi Coltrane
Live at the Catalina Bar and Grill
Saturday, July 8, Hollywood, CA
by Eric Podell

Jazz is a life form. It moves, it feels, it touches, it reacts and It responds. And it was when John Coltrane released ‘A Love Supreme” that the world understood jazz as a voice of the soul. It will be a wonderful day when Ravi Coltrane is not only referred to as the son of the great John Coltrane. True, Ravi Coltrane has a shadowing legacy to step into. Several writers have given Ravi album reviews only in comparison to his legendary father. Observers often criticize Ravi Coltrane because they cannot hear his own melodic voice and are only sizing him up to his dad. They are not listening. I was listening closely at Catalina Bar and Grill in Los Angeles on Sunday night, and Ravi Coltrane is alive indeed.

He resembles both a young and eager student of music who views his audience nervously through his bifocals, as well as an inspiring offspring of his revered father. Ravi Coltrane is both of these. When a listener finally hears the unique and original voice of Ravi Coltrane through his saxophone, they will hear an explosion of rhythmic and melodic sequences that float through the air with grace. Ravi Coltrane is an offspring of the jazz greats living in the age of hip hop. The next generation has our heads bouncing to funky rhythms while we are injected with a dose of free-jazz melodic riffs. The next class of jazz artists has not forgotten the beauty of the ballad.

One of his best pieces of the night, Ravi Coltrane performed an inspirational and unique version of James Carney’s “In Consequence.” Even on this piece, Ravi Coltrane’s sax provided a rhythmic theme that helped illuminate his own personal signature in the music world. On Soprano, Ravi chopped through the rhythm with melodic power like a knife through butter. To see him is not simply to view the son of a jazz great, but to see an inspiring and exciting new mind of the next jazz millennium.

At Catalina Bar and Grill, feet tapped and percussive beats bounced from wall to wall courtesy of a rhythm section that also has a voice and signature of their own. On drums, Steve Hass introduced the crowd to a grooving and poly-rhythmic display of rhythmic emotion that I have yet to see at Jazz shows. Usually I am hearing the amazing talent and fascinating skill that is so characteristic of Jazz drummers. But tonight, although there is no doubt that Hass is inspired by the greats, he added a hip hop feel to the music that propelled the music to move in interesting and new directions. Darryl Hall created a funky yet soothing feel on bass as he combined with Hass to create Ravi Coltrane’s canvas. And like an artist shading in the white spots on the sketch pad, pianist Andy Milne added an atmosphere to the music that both complimented and shaped the tone. I noticed forks tapping on the sides of dinner plates and hands slapping the sides of chairs. The rhythm in Catalina Bar provided a beautiful ocean for Ravi Coltrane to sail on.

“My mother is in the audience, and I am going to ask her to come to the stage, ” said Ravi into the house microphone. I could barely see the great Alice Coltrane as she stepped to the piano through the standing and applauding crowd. I don’t know if the excitement inside Catalina bar was due to the presence of Alice Coltrane, or the fact that we all would have the privilege to watch a mother and son play together. As they began “Ascension”, from John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” I could feel as though Ravi’s father was looking down to the stage with a tear in his eye. Ravi didn’t mimic his father’s style, rather, he paid tribute by playing in a voice all his own. Alice Coltrane sat back and smiled as she massaged the piano keys in a passionate display of musical synthesis with both her vibrant son and her beloved late husband. This is a musical family and I am in their living room.

For Ravi Coltrane the saying is probably true, “the best is yet to come”. As a result, I am both anxious and excited to witness the growth of this musical talent. As the set ended, Ravi stepped behind me to talk to a friend in the audience who had just entered the club. “You missed it, my mother sat in with me tonight,” said Ravi. In his voice I heard a sense of humbling pride. The pride of being the son of such inspiring parents, and the pride he must take in possessing the genes to a unique and original musical life that is all his own.