Talk about having the weight of history on your back: For the first time on disc, the sons of one half of jazz’s all-time greatest quartet are teaming up with a master drummer who collaborated with both of their fathers. To everyone’s credit, they tackle the legacy issue head-on, opening with a spacious version of John Coltrane’s “Alabama.” Ravi Coltrane’s tenor saxophone playing is just as fluid as his dad’s but more reserved, staying keyed in to the tune’s essential mournfulness. Jack DeJohnette, meanwhile, steers clear of pulse, using the kit to provide splashes of color that expand as the piece progresses. It’s Matthew Garrison who really lights the fire here, stomping on his distortion pedal about five minutes in, then engaging a series of sped-up loops that bring the proceedings to a head.
That initial statement perfectly sets the tone for the seven tracks that follow. Garrison’s chordal approach to the bass and brilliant use of electronic textures make him the prime mover in this group. His thick layers of backwards loops on “Two Jimmys” are particularly memorable, conjuring an atmosphere that feels both sacred and creepy at the same time. Not that his colleagues don’t get plenty of opportunities to shine as well. DeJohnette lays into a groove that’s downright mean on the album’s centerpiece, a freewheeling take on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” and gets to show off his estimable piano skills on a playful deconstruction of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green.” And though Coltrane leans toward the reflective throughout, he finally lets loose on “Rashied,” a furious duet with DeJohnette for which he switches to keening sopranino. Somewhere in jazz heaven, the cats are smiling.Originally Published