Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gary Bartz - Coltrane Rules: The Tao of a Musical Warrior (OYO Records, 2012)

The great alto and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz is supported by Andy Bey, Barney Mcall, James King, Greg Bandy and Rene McLean on an album dedicated to the legendary saxophonist John Colttrane. The album is bookended by two short solo performances of "After the Rain" a multi horn incantation for peace, with affective saxophones and bass clarinet evoking the hope arising after the storm. There are a couple of tracks that feature vocals, like Andy Bey singing "Dear Lord" as a heartfelt gospel hymn. There's a nice solo break for patiently developing saxophone in the middle before Bey returns scatting alongside the saxophone to end. "The Song of Loving/Kindness" takes a Buddhist approach to peace through music with some chanting around a dark oak like saxophone solo. The instrumental "I Concentrate on You" is the centerpiece of the album, building from a solid quartet medium-up tempo jazz improvisation with a very nice pinched saxophone sound, well developed and personal. Cultivating Coltrane like swirls of intense sound improvisation. Bartz's powerful well built extended solo is a highlight of the album, bringing Coltrane's legacies into the 21st century. After a restively genteel interlude for piano, bass and drums. Second solo equally powerful as the first on this lengthy blowout. A titanic statement overall, taking John Coltrane's musical DNA and splicing it into a new strain of music. "To Your Lady" has strong bass deep with drums supporting a fine saxophone lead. Swirls of saxophone cavorting freely over the bass and drums with piano chords framing the developing music with a jaunty piano led interlude included. "Nita" has a swinging full band lead into majestic saxophone solo, while the medley of "Dahomey Dance/Tunji" begins with a piano vamp, saxophone entering and swirling through and around. Strong saxophone playing, growing deeper and more intense as the piece moves on. Definitely in the John Coltrane "classic quartet" mold here with powerful saxophone and drums, deep elastic bass and loud piano chords. Intense, bracing music that scours the soul, before making way for a rippling and probing piano, bass and drums section. "Villa/Ole" begins at a slower, more contemplative tempo. Dark hued saxophone tones build strength slowly and with great potency. Explosive saxophone playing recalls the power of Coltrane's later period recordings. Piano with bass and drums bridges the two compositions. Bartz's saxophone returns sounding vaguely exotic, ratcheting downward to a fairly gentle conclusion. "Pristine" is uptempo hard-bop with an etched in granite sound, featuring a scalding fast saxophone solo and pointillist swinging piano trio section The music owes a great debt to the master as Bartz explains in this fascinating promotional video. But the truth is, despite John Coltrane's overwhelming presence, the band is approaching the music in their own way, finding connections and elaborating on ideas that Coltrane presented to the jazz world during his brief life. It is fascinating how Bartz has been able to combine songs into medleys that work as a seamless integrated whole. This was an excellent album, and deserves wide attention. Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Music Warrior - amazon.com

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