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Steve Heckman: With John in Mind

Once you know that Steve Heckman listened to A Love Supreme in its entirety every day for two years in high school, you’ll sense the degree to which John Coltrane’s influence permeates the Oakland multisaxophonist’s With John in Mind. Yet in spite of a similarity of sound on soprano and tenor and a not infrequent reference to familiar Coltrane figures, Heckman shuns the pitfalls of direct imitation. With some exceptions, his tone exhibits a smoother edge than his model’s and his overall playing lacks Coltrane’s biting intensity. In fact, Heckman’s often even-noted lines suggest Coltrane’s earlier work more so than his fiercely passionate later efforts. Still, Heckman handles his program of mostly originals with a virtuosic command of his horns and the harmonies and imbues them with genuine feeling of his own. Switching to baritone on the ballads “Lost in a Champagne Fog” and “Everything Happens to Me,” he sounds more soulfully boppish, with the latter often evoking Charlie Parker’s way of dealing with slow tunes. Pianist Mathew Clark, bassist Lee Alexander and drummer Diego Voglino maintain the high quality level.

Originally Published