An album devoted to the music of John Coltrane, by nature, comes with high expectations. A simple homage to the tenor saxophonist doesn’t necessarily add anything to his legacy, even if a musician has mastered the complexities of Trane’s style. Recasting the music in a new setting can also be a slippery slope. For After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane, Teodross Avery doubled down on his research. Already a master tenor saxophonist for over two decades, he read interviews and spoke to musicians who knew Coltrane, discovering what music was most significant to him, while also considering “the real connoisseurs of his music.” The six tracks qualify neither as deep cuts nor as the more popular works in the Trane songbook. Ultimately they represent a strong profile of both the source and Avery’s skill at bringing them new life.
Recorded live at the Sound Room in Oakland, the album features Avery in a quartet setting like Coltrane’s classic lineup, with pianist Adam Shulman, bassist Jeff Chambers, and drummer Darrell Green. There are moments when the group’s sound leans rather close to the originals. “After the Rain” sticks by its simple, soothing theme. When Avery’s brawny soprano sax launches “Afro Blue,” it could be mistaken for an alternate recording of the classic quartet, thanks to this group’s energy. But for every acknowledgement, Avery follows through by taking Trane’s ideas one step further. A forceful version of “Africa” is one of the most memorable tracks, as altissimo tenor shrieks go up against some vicious bowing from Chambers. The album gains momentum as it proceeds, with an aggressive reading of “Pursuance” from A Love Supreme sealing the group’s credibility.