Monday, June 15, 2009

Khan Jamal - Impressions of Coltrane (SteepleChase, 2009)

Rather than a strict tribute album, vibraphonist Khan Jamal instead presents an album detailing his perception of saxophonist and composer John Coltrane's music and the imprint that it made upon him as an artist. Accompanying him on this album are Odean Pope on tenor saxophone, Byard Lancaster on alto saxophone, Farid Barron on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass and Edgar Bateman on drums. Only Jamal plays on all tracks, with the others stepping up and laying out during the course of the album. Most of the tracks are from the early 1960's, they were written and recorded during Coltrane's successful and brief tenure at Atlantic Records where he took bebop based music to the breaking point while at the same time developing beautiful melodies, many of which have become standards in the succeeding years. Hearing the familiar Coltrane melodies with a vibraphone in the leads makes for an interesting and enticing sound with Jamal's percussive vibes ringing and sustaining over and around Barron's McCoy Tyner influenced piano. The saxophonists liven up the two tracks dedicated to Paul Chambers, Odean Pope soloing on "Blues for P.C." and Lancaster's blistering free-bop on "Mr. P.C." Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" was in Coltrane's sets for the majority of his career and it is present here as well, with the band making a fine example of it. A nicely lyrical version of the ballad "Naima" and a go for broke take on "Impressions" ends the album on a solid note. This was an enjoyable and relaxed album and takes an interesting view of familiar John Coltrane compositions and those associated with him. Vibraphone as the primary instrument may seem an odd choice for a set of music devoted to one of the greatest saxophonists, but it works well, proving how enduring and durable they are and how talented and tasteful the musicians are.
Impressions of Coltrane -

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