CD REVIEW: Jack DeJohnette / Ravi Coltrane / Matthew Garrison - In Movement

Jack DeJohnette / Ravi Coltrane / Matthew Garrison - In Movement
(ECM. 478 1598. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Jack DeJohnette's trio with Ravi Coltrane (saxophones) and Matthew Garrison (electric bass and electronics) can't help but sound like a family affair: DeJohnette is Garrison's godfather; in the 1960s he played with both Coltrane's parents, as well as Garrison's father, and he has acted as a mentor to Coltrane. They have played as a trio before, but this is the first album they have recorded.

An impressionistic album, it has pointers to a shared past throughout. It opens with John Coltrane's Alabama, written after the firebombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 in which four children were murdered. The trio's rendition is softer, less angry than John Coltrane's, though it retains the quality of a lament, with suffering and loss clear in Coltrane’s crying saxophone. DeJohnette plays loose time on the drums, but with real dynamism. Garrison’s rumbling bass breaks down towards the end of the track into passages of vexed noise.

DeJohnette also plays piano on the record. On Blue In Green, credited to both Miles Davis and Bill Evans, DeJohnette plays some seemingly simple piano behind Coltrane’s saxophone exploration of the tune, which they have abstracted until it is virtually unrecognisable. The other track not written by members of the trio is the Earth, Wind & Fire tune Serpentine Fire. For just three instruments, they create a full, energetic sound, quickly latching onto a groove that redolent of another period of Miles Davis’ career, when DeJohnette featured on Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.

Two Jimmys has a similar groove, but a darker feel. It grows slowly, Garrison contributing growling electronics as well as a funky bass riff, over which Coltrane solos. The tune is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix and the bass player Jimmy Garrison, Matthew’s father.

The aptly titled Soulful Ballad, which closes the album, features DeJohnette on piano and Coltrane’s saxes. It is a gentle, subtle track, with Garrison’s bass barely hinted at, leaving the other two to duet. They also share a duet on Rashied, named for drummer Rashied Ali who featured in John Coltrane's late period. DeJohnette is on drums again here, a high energy workout behind Ravi Coltrane's sopranino saxophone.

The title track In Movement starts with Garrison's bass, and then a repeated note from piano or electronics, which is present throughout the rest of the tune, adding to the tension. Another dark tune, this grows and grows. DeJohnette plays with immense dynamism, both powerfully and subtly. Coltrane solos with engaging fluency and intensity. Garrison's bass, mostly in background, develops into a solo too, essential to the balance of the tune.

That balance is present throughout the record: whilst Coltrane’s virtuosity and DeJohnette’s energetic delivery are to the fore, Garrison’s playing is crucial to the trio’s success. For all its nods to the past, this record is very much of the present.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

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