Strangely enough, producer Yasohachi "88" Itoh considered Ravi Coltrane too untrained to record him the first time that Itoh heard him. Now that Itoh is launching the Eighty-Eight’s label, he has chosen Coltrane as one of the 4 musicians to promote in his first selection of releases. While each of the other 3 releases possesses its own noteworthy, and in some cases indelible, moments, Mad 6
is the most progressive of them all.
While he opens and closes the CD with tributes to his legendary father, whom he hardly knew and in whose shadow he is valiantly carving out his own career, Ravi Coltrane has developed his own voice, actually not like his father’s on saxophone at all. The younger Coltrane’s proficiency on soprano saxophone, in particular, is engaging with its own fluidity and right-on intonation, particularly as he recasts Jimmy Heath’s "Gingerbread Man." Even on the initial acknowledgement to his father, "26-2," Coltrane personalizes the tune by playing it in 9/8 as it becomes a roller coaster of an ride with slowdowns and accelerations before the abrupt stop. After that thrill of an introduction, Coltrane maintains the sense of intensity, even as the time signatures become more conventional. On his own "Avignon," a three-four composition, Coltrane gives a feel, through displaced accents and effective use of dynamics, of a more indefinable meter, one that slips into one rhythm and the glides into another one. "The Mad 6," true to form, arises from a repeated motive that evolves into melody.
On Mad 6,
Coltrane records with 2 equally elevating backup groups: one with pianist George Colligan, bassist Darryl Hall and drummer Steve Hass; and the other with, respectively, Andy Milne, James Genus and, again, Hass. Equally versatile on Mingus’ expressive and harmonically unpredictable "Self Portrait in Three Colors" as on Monk’s "’Round Midnight," which is converted into an energizing subtly Latin romp, Coltrane’s 2 quartets blend in seamlessly with his now-matured style. His clarity of technical articulation communicates Coltrane’s thought, as if through a language, but his wholly rounded perspective considers from the start the entire structure of the tune as all of the parts fall into place during execution.
Ravi Coltrane’s recordings have proven him to be a musician to watch as he continues to present music that’s identified as his own sound and that involves some of the most interesting of his contemporary musicians.