Ravi Coltrane has yet to make an unworthy record, but In Flux, his Savoy debut and fourth album overall, is streamlined and eloquent to a degree that exceeds his past efforts. The disc captures his working quartet with pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress and drummer E.J. Strickland; they focus on original music save for a bright romp on Wayne Shorter's 3/4 piece "United." From the very first poetic strokes by Perdomo on "The Message" (a glowing tenor-piano duet), the lofty intentions are clear. "Coincide" and "Angular Realms" are minefields, harmonically and rhythmically, inspiring hard-edged interplay from the group. "Variations III" and "Variations I" are brief, contrasting sketches on off-kilter themes, and "Scram Vamp" is another fragment over an ambiguous funk rhythm. "Blending Times," in a skittering 3/4, cycles over a short and curiously static series of chords, building in intensity. "Leaving Avignon" begins with a minute or so of solo percussion and enters a strange forest of overdubbed horns, then ends abruptly (an intriguing answer, perhaps, to an earlier piece called "Avignon," from his 2002 CD, Mad 6). There are also rubato tributes to two notable women: Alice Coltrane and the late journalist Zoe Anglesey. Perdomo seizes some resplendent moments on "Dear Alice"; the darker, more drone-based "For Zoe" brings the disc to a solemn close.
Focus Point, Luis Perdomo's debut as a leader, is aesthetically similar to In Flux, which makes sense, as it's the latest from Ravi Coltrane's promising RKM label. Coltrane plays memorably on two tracks, but the most consistent presence here, apart from Perdomo, is Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums. Three different bassists-Ugonna Okegwo, Carlo DeRosa and Miriam Sullivan-joust with the merciless Peterson and live to tell. Miguel Zenon logs three burning performances on alto sax, and Roberto Quintero seasons two cuts with bata drums and Afro-Venezuelan percussion. There are two solo piano sketches ("Fragments," "Impromptu"), two complex views of minor blues ("You Know I Know," "Breakdown"), a free-boppish quintet piece ("Book of Life"), Miriam Sullivan's two-part "Spirit Song" and a tenor-piano duet with Max King on King's own "Dreams." Compositionally, Perdomo has room to grow as a melodist. But this son of Venezuela, one of New York's best pianists, is off to a strong start.