If you look through the other side of the telescope, jazz today has a lot in common with its more buttoned up cousin, classical music. Star soloists and go getting conductors feel the need to endlessly record their versions of Bruckner and Mozart et al until the listener runs out of shelf space. So it goes with jazz. The ‘Tribute to Miles’ type release being a commonplace. At best such activities end up being admired as a kind of audio reproduction furniture or at worst a nostalgic exercise in reflected glory. If music were painting it would be Banksy sings Rembrandt.
Well count to ten and press the restart button. The Spirit of Trane has changed my mind. Adopted Brit Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble mark the 50th year since Coltrane’s death with this intoxicating and match fit collection.
The material is very well chosen incorporating highlights from Giant Steps, Ballads and Blue Train making up the front row with other significant ballads filling out the ranks and one robust original.
The opener In A Sentimental Mood compels the listener from the start. Atzmon soothingly realizing the pith and pitch of the Coltrane sound whist never doing a flat out impersonation. A delicate act of balance which is an easy constant of this release.
Invitation underlines the sentiment with a judicious use of strings smudging a steely trace of modernity into the romantic mood. Minor Thing, an Atzmon composition and the longest tune is a full blooded immersion into the later Coltrane DNA. Joyful incense like blocks of sound with a thoughtful undercarriage of changing tempos.
Giant Steps starts as a lilting adante and ends as race to the finishing line. It’s the only tune that shrinks a little in the shadow of the original version. My favourite, Naima, is treated as late city night elegy, those string quartet strings widening the canvas but not stretching the melody too tight. It looks back and forward at the same time. The final romantic lean in is a slithering reading of Say It (Over and Over Again).
If you are a Coltrane fan, you will like this. If you are not a Coltrane fan you probably not reading this anyway. The Spirit of Trane did not send me back to the original albums which Is the best compliment I can give.