“John Coltrane’s ideas shaped postwar music from bebop to free jazz.
“He believed in his intuitions and followed them and created music that hadn’t been created before,” says his son, Ravi Coltrane, a noted saxophonist himself. “He had no problem following his inner impressions, his inner observations.”
John Coltrane died in 1967, leaving behind music that still stirs wonder — as well as controversy — among jazz players and listeners. In honor of Coltrane’s 90th birthday, the Portland Jazz Festival features a number of concerts and events dedicated in whole or in part to Coltrane’s art.
Ravi Coltrane himself will play two concerts, the first at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in the Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway. Conducted by retired Portland State University Professor Charles Gray, the concert will feature an ensemble playing along with Coltrane, pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. The musicians will perform John Coltrane’s first Impulse! record “Africa/Brass,” released in 1961.
“I think when he moved to Impulse!, they wanted to get out of the gate with something special, something different than his records before,” Ravi Coltrane says of “Africa/Brass.” More “big band” than most of his father’s albums, the record featured 21 musicians, including ones playing French horns and a euphonium. Coltrane says staging this record is a balancing act between homage and improvisation.
“The biggest challenge is not to just emulate the record,” he says. “For me, that’s a goal anytime you have to cover music that has such a historical imprint on it.”“