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Roland Ramanan: Shaken

For decades, persons of color have shaped British jazz and improvised music. Even without the legendary South African exiles, it’s still an impressive lot, starting with pioneering altoist Joe Harriott in the ’60s, continuing with saxophonists Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson in the ’80s and platform-crossing figures like vibist Orphy Robinson and keyboardist/electronicist Pat Thomas in the ’90s. In this context, Roland Ramanan is definitely a trumpeter to watch. While Shaken (Emanem) is partially a legacy statement (Ramanan is the son of Harriott trumpeter Shake Keane), it is clear from the outset of this thoroughly engaging quartet set with cellist Marcio Mattos, bassist Simon H. Fell and drummer Mark Sanders that Ramanan is very much his own man. He is equally effective with lyrical plaints and high-velocity workouts as he is with investigations of timbre and dynamics. Employing conceptual guidelines, Ramanan is able to give pieces a definite shape and mode of propulsion without handcuffing his cohorts. With British improvised music’s moorings in free jazz becoming increasingly tenuous, Ramanan’s reminder of its vitality is most welcomed.

Originally Published