Claudio Roditi is better than Impressions would indicate. The Brazilian trumpeter’s tribute to John Coltrane (who either wrote or famously performed seven of the 10 tunes) is a textbook example of mediocrity: perfectly pleasant, serviceable, bossa-seasoned hard-bop, but with predictability as its real hallmark.
Roditi isn’t the worst offender—saxophonist Idriss Boudrioua has a bottomless well of clichés. When he begins his alto solo on “The Monster and the Flower” with a brief phrase, then a two-beat rest, even the casual jazz fan can hear the double-time flurry coming, and can probably guess the notes. Roditi’s work has a bit more oomph, as on the lively “Speak Low,” but it too is by-the-numbers: “Giant Steps” and “Come Rain or Come Shine” have never sounded so stale. The rhythm section (pianist Dario Galante, bassist Sergio Barroso and drummer Pascoal Meirelles) does its best to inject some personality—notably, Barroso comes up with a neat elastic groove on “Naima”—but there’s simply not much inspiration here for them to harness.
There are a couple of interesting moments, the title track foremost among them; for once everybody sounds engaged, with even Boudrioua mustering up an imaginative workout. The excitement here demonstrates exactly what’s wrong with the rest of the disc: It’s safe—the antithesis of what jazz should be. Safety befits neither a tribute to the adventurer Coltrane nor a mainstream player of Roditi’s talents. He’s generally an underrated trumpeter, but Impressions won’t do much to buoy his reputation.