Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ravi Coltrane tonight

Pianist Andy Milne sent me an email telling me about his gig at Yoshi's Monday evening. I hadn't noticed the gig so I was happy for the reminder. Andy is one of my favorite pianists. It had been many moons since I seen his band Dapp Theory.
When I checked the line-up Ravi Coltrane was also on the list. Hum. So even though I was tired I dragged myself out the house yawning all the way down Seminary to San Leandro Blvd. to the freeway, thinking about all the papers I needed to be grading and yet there I was headed to I-80 checking my 26 messages dating back to February. Had I heard the term "slow down"? Did I even know what the phrase meant?

I pulled into a great parking spot, then I noticed an even better one, the same spot I'd occupied the evening before at the Randy Weston gig, Weston another great pianist. But as I was already a tad late I decided to let my car stay the two blocks away and head inside.

The club was comfortably filled. I got a seat in a booth and the set hadn't started yet. Yes, of course they were waiting for me.

It was perfect. My companion loved the band, his exclamations of "Right on!" "Yes!" and other more articulate grunts and shouts kept me alert and wondering if he'd also been at the first set.
His early exit answered that question.

The band was great, bandleader Ralph Alessi, trumpet, is a good writer and the music was relaxing while at the same time an intellectual challenge that could swing.

I was tired so I didn't stay around to greet Andy, but as I left the club, Ravi was standing out back talking to someone. I greeted him and he said that this tour was the first since his mom had passed.

I had to get back out there. He admitted more like a question.

Of course, I responded, as I noticed the difficulty evident in his shielded eyes, rounded shoulders and covered head--he wasn't the same man I'd greeted after the phenomenally spiritually uplifting performance at SFJAZZ last year with his mother on organ accompanied by Roy Haynes on drums and Tom Haden on bass. The awesome Ben Street was on bass Monday night.
I could see Ravi found it hard creating music in a world his mother and friend Alice Coltrane was no longer a part of.
Monday night the vibe was fittingly somber or contemplative on the second set, Ravi said all the band members: bassist Ben Street, pianist Andy Milne, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and of course band leader Ralph Alessi, were his friends-- a good place for a free fall.


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