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Ravi Coltrane Quartet

Howard Assembly Room, Leeds
Wednesday 11 March 2015

When it comes to pedigrees, Ravi Coltrane could, surely, be described as a bona fide jazz purebred. His mother was the renowned multi-instrumentalist Alice Coltrane, whose early-1970s Impulse recordings laid the foundation for later experimental and fusion jazz releases. His father was none other than the modern jazz behemoth John Coltrane, an artist who reformed and redefined jazz in the mid-1960s with LPs such as A Love Supreme and Ascension. Before his untimely death in 1967, Coltrane Snr. broke so much ground in jazz that the entire landscape was changed forever.

Ravi was not yet two years old when his father succumbed to cancer at the age of forty. Fortunately for us, Coltrane Jnr. had, evidently, already been infused with that unique prowess for jazz that blends complex avant-garde curiosity with a highly attuned spiritual sensibility. Ever since his emergence as sideman for Elvin Jones in the early 1990s and his breakthrough as leader on 1998's RCA release, Moving Pictures, Ravi has been pushing the boundaries in true Coltrane style, whether wielding a sax or turning the dials as producer.

His appearance in Leeds this evening provided a first glimpse for many of the Howard Assembly Rooms' attentive audience. Usually confining his UK appearances to the more established jazz venues of London, Manchester and Glasgow, Ravi began tonight's concert by assuring his Yorkshire fans that he was glad to head off the beaten track.

Lucky for us, Ravi had brought with him a superlative group of musicians. Pianist David Virelles provided an equally studious and adventurous delivery of uncanny chord structures and always startling improvised solos. Bassist Dezron Douglas seemed just as captivated as the crowd with tonight's performance as he laid a confident and earthy bass-line beneath each number. Drummer Jonathan Blake gave, perhaps, the most dazzling performance of the quartet, appearing to draw a series of complex, angular shapes across his kit throughout.

Beginning with a finely-woven improvisation on the classic Bird Food, Ravi and his band led us through a selection of thundering freebop renderings of compositions by such artists as Ornette Coleman and Billy Strayhorn as well as a generous selection of the band's self-penned works. Drummer Blake's own piece Homeward Bound shimmered with a collage of American landscapes and offered its author the chance to test the Assembly Room's curves with a chest-beating drum solo. Ravi's own compositions, such as Mariyln & Tammy and the resplendent The Change, My Girl offered this quietly reflective saxophonist the chance to enchant his audience with the meditative melodies that made his 2012 Blue Note record Spirit Fiction such a joy to hear.

With a stirring encore, demanded by this delighted Yorkshire audience, Ravi and co. left us with the distinct feeling that he'll be passing this way again in the future. He will, of course, be most welcome.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky