Hour 20 Legacy Saxophone from Joshua Redman and Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

Dewey Redman (1931 – 2006) and John Coltrane (1926 – 1967) are giants in jazz history. Their sons Joshua Redman (born 1969) and Ravi Coltrane (born 1965) are among the most prominent players playing today. Has there ever been another time in jazz history when two of the most admired players are children of jazz masters? And it is even more extraordinary that both sets of fathers and sons all are great tenor players. Joshua Redman and Ravi Coltrane in this hour of Jazz at 100 Today!

Brad Mehldau – Joshua Redman
Brad Mehldau played in Joshua Redman’s quartet in the early 1990s and the two have been frequent studio collaborators over the years working together on projects such as Redman’s Mood Swing from 1994 and 1998’s Timeless Tales (For Changing Times). Mehldau’s 2010 release Highway Rider brings them together again for two disc set of Mehldau compositions in a variety of settings.

In 2011, the duo recorded a number of live concerts which were released as the disc Nearness in 2016. Their rendition of Monk’s In Walked Bud is illustrative of them tightly circling around the melody and each other.

Redman and Mehldau got together again for the Mehldau-produced 2013 disc Walking Shadows. While the disc features luscious ballads arranged for a variety of ensembles including full string orchestras for more than half of the collection, Redman’s composition, Final Hour, starkly rendered with Mehldau in a duo setting is one of the most powerful pieces.

Sky Turning Grey. Brad Mehldau Quartet
(Joshua Redman-ts, Brad Mehldau-p/org, Larry Grenadier-b, Matt Chamberlain-d). From Highway Rider. Nonesuch. 2010.
In Walked Bud. Joshua Redman – Brad Mehldau duo
(Joshua Redman-ts, Brad Mehldau-p). From Nearness. Nonesuch. 2016
Final Hour. Joshua Redman – Brad Mehldau duo
(Joshua Redman-ts, Brad Mehldau-p). From Walking Shadows. Nonesuch. 2013

Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane’s celebrated release Spirit Fiction (his sixth as a leader) featured several ensembles including a quintet with trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Geri Allen, a trio with Allen and fellow tenorist Joe Lovano, and recordings of his working quartet of Luis Perdomo on piano, Drew Gress on bass and EJ Strickland on drums. According to Coltrane, “The title, Spirit Fiction is an abstract turn of phrase that … ultimately refers to the open ended idea of simply embracing imagination.” Troy Collins writes on AllAboutJazz, “The quixotic title track expounds upon this concept as the quartet divides in half, simultaneously heading in opposite aesthetic directions”

On November 18, 1963, John Coltrane and what is considered his great quartet (McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums) recorded the hymn Alabama as an elegy to the four girls murdered two months previously by the Klan in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Over 50 years later, drummer Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison (Jimmy Garrision’s bass playing son), reprised the song on the 2015 release In Movement. Karl Ackerman writes, “In Movement opens with an extended and stunning version of the senior Coltrane’s Alabama. While the trio loses none of the original version’s emotional impact, they nevertheless take a fresh approach with the addition of restrained electronics and Ravi Coltrane’s quietly surging tenor.”

Spirit Fiction. Ravi Coltrane Quartet
(Ravi Coltrane-ts/ss, Luis Perdomo-p, Drew Gress-b, EJ Strickland-d). From Spirit Fiction. Blue Note Records. 2012.
Alabama. Jack DeJohnette – Ravi Coltrane – Matthew Garrison Trio
(Ravi Coltrane-ts, Matthew Garrison-b, Jack DeJohnette-d/per). From In Movement. ECM. 2015.

Joshua Redman with Piano Trios
Founded around the turn of the century, The Bad Plus has recorded as a piano trio with few exceptions. In 2015, they broke that mold and recorded a disc with Joshua Redman. In the New York Times, Nate Chinen wrote, “As a chemistry experiment, the album is a knockout.
Which, on the one hand, should be no surprise: Mr. Redman, like the members of the Bad Plus, is a Generation X musician who regards his jazz erudition more as a means than as an end. But his coolly rational style, and the dry restraint in his tone, can suggest a stark contrast to the band’s more florid, exclamatory mode.” Redman contributed two originals to the effort, including the ballad The Mending.

Another 2015 project for Joshua Redman was the return of the quartet James Farm with Aaron Parks on piano, Matt Penman on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. At JazzTimes, Britt Robson wrote, “Once again, a program of 10 originals is parsed out with three compositions apiece for pianist Aaron Parks, saxophonist Joshua Redman and bassist Matt Penman, and one for drummer Eric Harland. Each has signature traits as a composer-Parks has an affinity for ephemeral, melancholy beauty, while Harland inevitably works his songs into a propulsive spree, for example. But because all four possess youthful, cosmopolitan taste and acute familiarity with each other’s playing and writing styles, they are both willing and able to cover an enormous amount of terrain with virtuoso synergy.” One of Parks’s compositions, Farms, “is a mostly simple and straightforward vehicle for Redman’s exquisite tenor.”

The Mending. The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman
(Joshua Redman-ts, Ethan Iverson-p, Reid Anderson-b, Dave King-d). From The Bad Plus Joshua Redman. Nonesuch. 2015.
Farms. James Farm
(Joshua Redman-sax, Aaron Parks-p, Matt Penman-b, Eric Harland-d). From City Folk. Nonesuch. 2015.

Ravi Coltrane with Ralph Alessi and Joshua Redman with Ron Miles
In 2019, Ravi Coltrane teamed up with trumpeter Ralph Alessi to release Imaginary Friends with a quintet featuring Andy Milne on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Mark Ferber on drums. This quintet had last recorded together in 2007 under the name This Against That in the sessions that produced the disc, Look. After thirty years of collaboration, Coltrane and Alessi are a model of musical communication in the front line.

In 2018, Joshua Redman released the disc Still Dreaming in a cordless quartet of Ron Miles on trumpet, Scott Colley on bass and Brian Blade on drums. The quartet pays tribute to the band Old and New Dreams that Joshua Rodman’s father Dewey led with former members of Ornette Coleman’s quartet – Don Cherry on trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. The tune Unanimity, in the words of AllAbout Jazz’s Geannine Reid, “…exemplifies what this group is about, control and logical freedom of expression.”

Improper Authorities. Ralph Alessi Quintet
(Ralph Alessi-tp, Ravi Coltrane-ts/sopranino, Andy Milne-p, Drew Gress-b, Mark Ferber-d). From Imaginary Friends. ECM. 2019.
Unanimity. Joshua Redman – Ron Miles – Scott Colley – Brian Blade
(Joshua Redman-ts, Ron Miles-tp, Scott Colley-b, Brian Blade-d). From Still Dreaming. Nonesuch. 2018.

As jazz tenor players, Ravi Coltrane and Joshua Redman follow in the significant footsteps of their fathers. Both are very much their own players and neither is slavishly derivative of the huge presence that preceded them. Totally secure in their own music, neither player is afraid to offer tributes to their important predecessors.

Resources
Kelman, John. AllAboutJazz. Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/brad-mehldau-highway-rider-by-john-kelman.php

Collette, Doug. (2016, October 7, 2016). Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau: Nearness. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/nearness-joshua-redman-nonesuch-records-review-by-doug-collette.php

Georgievski, Nehad. (2013, July 1). Joshua Redman: Walking Shadows. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/walking-shadows-joshua-redman-nonesuch-records-review-by-nenad-georgievski.php

Collins, Troy (201, June 22). AllAboutJazz. Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/spirit-fiction-ravi-coltrane-blue-note-records-review-by-troy-collins.php

Chinen, Nate. (2015, May 25). New York Times. Review: Joshua Redman Joins the Bad Plus in a Chemistry Experiment. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/26/arts/music/review-joshua-redman-joins-the-bad-plus-in-a-chemistry-experiment.html

Robson, Britt. (2015, February 10). JazzTimes. James Farm: City Folk. https://jazztimes.com/reviews/albums/james-farm-city-folk/

Ackermann, Karl. (2016, May 4.). AllAboutJazz. Jack Dejohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison: In Movement. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/in-movement-jack-dejohnette-ecm-records-review-by-karl-ackermann.php

Jurkovic., Mike. (2019, February 4). Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/imaginary-friends-ralph-alessi-ecm-records-review-by-mike-jurkovic.php

Reid, Geannine. (2018, June 24). Joshua Redman: Still Dreaming. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/still-dreaming-joshua-redman-nonesuch-records-review-by-geannine-reid.php

For other programs in Jazz at 100 Today! visit: Jazz at 100 Today!

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