Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saxophone Summit - Seraphic Light (Telarc, 2008)

Boasting a heavy hitting front line of saxophonists Ravi Coltrane, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano and backed by Phil Markowitz on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums (with support from trumpeter Randy Brecker on a few tracks) this collective group pays tribute to John Coltrane's spiritual music and their lost comrade, saxophonist Michael Brecker. Those who fear being scared away by the idea of the band playing music from John Coltrane's free period can rest assured that while the music found here is quite open it is not as caustic or demanding as the originals. Three of these songs are heard at the end of the album, which ends with a trilogy of Coltrane compositions: "Cosmos", "Seraphic Light", and "Expression." These were the most impressive and interesting performances on the album for me as the band really digs into the music with a spirit of reverence and exploration. "Message to Mike" is a very well done tribute with some excellent flute leavening the vivid saxophone playing. Some of the original tunes by the band members pale in comparison a little bit. While the craggy and well though out composition "The Thirteenth Floor" is quite successful, the ballad "All About You" and the opening "Transitions" find the group casting about for a coherency that seems to be missing. So, this album is not a complete success, there is some good music to be found here and hopefully it will shed some much needed light on the "difficult" music of John Coltrane's final period. This music is ripe for rediscovery and reinterpretation, and led by these influential musicians, hopefully it will see a renaissance.

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