Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Heir apparent

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Man, talk about the anxiety of influence – just imagine the slabs of inhibition Ravi Coltrane, son of John, must have had to bust through simply to pick up a tenor saxophone, let alone take it on stage. No wonder he waited until he was in his 30s to record as a leader (1998’s Moving Pictures on RCA). Who wouldn’t want to defer all those "can’t touch his dad" reviews? Of course Ravi, like his father, is a child of his times, and if John Coltrane flourished during that last decade when a single artist’s innovations could extend jazz’s possibilities, his son is doing his best during a period of recapitulation, of trying to find one’s voice in a medium already formed and abundantly investigated.

It ain’t easy. There are times on From the Round Box, a quintet date, when influence starts to yield impersonation, when trumpeter Ralph Alessi’s fondness for full-bodied glissando starts to sound a little too much like Freddie Hubbard (circa his work on Maiden Voyage) and pianist Geri Allen’s impressionistic drip-drop approach a little too much like mid-’60s Herbie Hancock. As for Ravi, he only really channels his father once, emitting A Love Supreme-type cries during his original "The Chartreuse Mean," favoring for the most part a sort of amalgam of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, of eccentric probing and post-bop swing.

It’s a familiar approach, but what Coltrane has that a lot of other saxophonists of his generation lack is a certain gravitas, an authoritative (but not brooding) seriousness which sounds unstudied and which nudges his rhythm section into inspirational flights. It’s an elusive quality – call it "inner sobriety" – but on the slower selections it steers him away from mere prettiness and in the grappling stretches suggests a wisdom waiting to unfold. On tenor he doesn’t sound like he’s gotten where he’s going, on soprano he can sound nearly generic – but he is beginning to sound like a natural heir.

Richard C. Walls writes about film and music for Metro Times. E-mail him at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Richard C. Walls

Read the Digital Print Issue

February 24, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation