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Saxophone Summit: Seraphic Light

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Saxophone Summit, L-R: David Liebman, Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane

This follow-up to Saxophone Summit’s triumphant 2004 debut, Gathering of Spirits, resonates with deep meaning on a number of levels. First, it is shrouded in sadness due to the absence of founding member Michael Brecker, whom this disc is dedicated to. Secondly, his replacement in the Sax Summit lineup is Ravi Coltrane, a natural heir to the Trane legacy that Brecker and fellow saxophonists Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman embraced throughout their careers. Furthermore, it includes two latter-day Trane pieces, “Expression” and “Seraphic Light,” that Ravi’s mother and John’s widow, the late Alice Coltrane, originally played on. (By tragic coincidence, Alice passed away on January 12, 2007, a day before Michael Brecker died.)

Given all of these heavy circumstances coming into the October 2007 session, it’s easy to see why Seraphic Light bristles with moments of cathartic intensity and joyous abandon. The three Trane pieces here-“Cosmos” (from Live in Seattle), “Seraphic Light” (from Stellar Regions) and “Expression” (the title track from John Coltrane’s final studio sessions in February-March 1967)-contain dense, atonal excursions that might scare away timid listeners. And yet there are other moments here that are far more listener-friendly than the previous Sax Summit outing, making for a kind of yin-yang project. Or, as Liebman puts it in the liner notes: “In essence we have two albums in one. The original tunes are to my ears quite accessible and compact in their performances, offering a needed contrast to the weightier Coltrane material.”

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