Lewis Porter: Beauty & Mystery (Altrisuoni)

Review of pianist's fourth album as a leader

Cover of Lewis Porter album Beauty & Mystery
Cover of Lewis Porter album Beauty & Mystery

It’s not surprising that the spirit of John Coltrane hovers over pianist Lewis Porter’s fourth album as a leader. After all, Porter wrote a whole book about the guy, John Coltrane: His Life and Music. That book was published 20 years ago, but the continuing influence that Trane and the other members of his classic ’60s quartet have had on Porter is evident on at least half of Beauty & Mystery’s 10 cuts. Two of those obvious debt-holders, “Birthplace” and “Blues for Trane and McCoy,” feature saxophonist Tia Fuller, who plays soprano on the former and alto on the latter. The almost ominous sense of momentum they carry harks back strongly to the Crescent era. But they’re by no means carbon copies; Fuller is a more droll player than Trane, and Porter’s main structural gambit for the blues—make the intricate unison head seven choruses long and don’t play it until the very end of the tune—is a pleasant surprise.

Other Trane-infused material includes a fractured take on “Bye Bye Blackbird” and the aptly titled “Dazzling Raga,” a product of Porter’s long-held interest in Indian music (shared by you know who). The “Jimmy” referenced in “From Giovanni to Jimmy” is Jimmy Garrison; the “Giovanni” refers to the bassist on this date, John Patitucci, whose upright playing is typically authoritative. Elvin Jones doesn’t get a shout-out, but drummer Terri Lyne Carrington can summon up more than a hint of his volcanic edge when necessary.

Enjoyable as these tracks are, though, the album’s less Trane-ish half stays longer in the memory. “Chasing Lines” employs “Cherokee” changes in the service of take-no-prisoners improv, Porter goes all Tommy Flanagan for Ted Chubb’s haunting ballad “1919,” and Patitucci testifies on a gorgeous reading of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.”

Preview, buy or download Beauty & Mystery on Amazon!

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.