Rahsaan Barber Ensemble Pushes Boundaries of John Coltrane's Music

Nashville Jazz Scene

Whether already a fan, or just getting into the music of John Coltrane, there was something for everyone in the standing room only audience at The Nashville Jazz Workshop's "Jazz On The Move" series, Sunday, March 14, 2010, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

Looking "Presidential", Young Lion, saxophonist, educator, and composer Rahsaan Barber, began the program with a brief biography of John Coltrane, and then an introduction of his ensemble "Everyday Magic", featuring Adam Agati (guitar), Nioshi Jackson (drums), Jody Nardone (piano), and Jerry Navarro (bass). Even though this was their first public appearance together, you couldn't tell, as they kicked off the program with a energetic version of "Locomotion" from Coltrane's seminal 1957 recording, "Blue Train." This performance highlighted Jackson's swinging and efficient drumming, Nardone's bold comping, Navarro's propulsive acoustic bass, Agati's fluid and lyrical guitar work, and Barber's bold and earnest saxophone playing.

Next up was a gripping performance combining two Coltrane's most introspective works. They began with "Alabama", the artist's response to the1963 terrorist bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, and from the opening rumble of Nardone's piano, the exclamation of Jackson's cymbals, and the forthrightness of Barber's tenor, one could feel the emotion the artist put into the composition that expressed his opposition to the injustices of that time. After a descriptive and defiant bass solo by Navarro that led into a vamp, the quintet continued into Coltrane's 1960 recording of "Equinox", a song that expresses hope and equality.

After a standing ovation, the ensemble paused to let the energy of the performance sink in, and you could feel the tension in the room subside with the opening notes of composer Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" from Coltrane's collaboration with vocalist Johnny Hartman. The tune featured Nardone on piano and vocal, accompanied by Barber's understated tenor and Agati's mournful guitar playing.

Next, Barber gave a demonstration of some of the revolutions that Coltrane brought to his instrument, including changing the range of notes that saxophonists use, his use of chords and his "sheets of sound" technique. This led into a Latin infused version of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" that featured Barber in a mid-song full acapella solo demonstration of the complicated and innovative chord and key progressions in the Coltrane composition.

After the second standing ovation, Barber invited percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez to join the ensemble for an engaging rendition of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue, featuring guitar and soprano saxophone coloration by Barber and Agati, rich and percussive piano playing by Nardone, the playful and joyous trading of claves between Jackson and Navarro, and a spirited percussion solo by Rodriguez. The program concluded with "Resolution", from the Coltrane's spiritual 4-part suite "A Love Supreme", and a third and final standing ovation.

The Nashville Jazz Workshop, through its school, monthly performances at the "Jazz Cave", and consistent standing room only "Jazz On The Move" series at the Frist Museum of Visual Arts, has demonstrated that there is an enthusiastic audience, and a demand for jazz in Nashville. The time has come for a full-time venue to showcase the talent of local, regional, and national jazz artists, and for Music City to live up to it's name.

For more information about the Nashville Jazz Workshop, visit their website at www.nashvillejazz.org, and for more information about Frist Museum of Visual Art, Rahsaan Barber and his group El Movimeinto visit their websites at www.fristcenter.org, www.thebarberbrothers.com or www.elmojazz.com

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