Coltrane in Spring
John Tchicai is arguably one of the few musicians who could successfully pay homage to John Coltrane with a poem, since the Danish saxophonist participated in the watershed Ascension sessions. So also can Tchicai be forgiven for a rather flat recitation of the John Stewart poem that serves as this disc’s title cut and parallels Coltrane’s music with the season of renewal. The words create anticipation of great things to come with this quartet. The spirit of Coltrane doesn’t really come up again until the end of the album.
In between, Tchicai and fellow Danes Jonas Muller (trumpet, piano), Nikolaj Munch-Hansen (bass) and Kresten Osgood (drums) play bright, animated free-bop that gets a little closer to Ornette Coleman’s quartet or the more grounded work of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Muller’s trumpet and Tchicai’s tenor tumble around and on top of one another and in some spots one provides fast counterpoint to the other’s lead melody. Osgood, who recorded previously in a quartet with the saxophonist, slips easily between heavy swing and freedom; Munch-Hansen keeps the changes within earshot and still fills plenty of space while playing it straight. On the closing “Modoc,” Muller returns to the piano and the group begins a rubato ballad that does evoke Trane, until they cut loose with their own ideas and wrap up the disc with an appropriately rousing conclusion.