Picks and Pans Review: Blues for Coltrane

UPDATED 01/09/1989 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/09/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

A Tribute to John Coltrane

Jazz, John Coltrane said, was a means of getting closer to God. Whether lightly riding a blue note in a traditional ballad or leaping between extreme registers on his saxophone in the midst of a free-jazz fire storm, he looked heavenward for inspiration. This album, released two decades after Coltrane's death at age 40 of a liver ailment, testifies to the durability of his vision. Two of Coitrane's closest disciples—tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist McCoy Tyner—join with drummer and sometime Coltrane collaborator Roy Haynes and bass player Cecil McBee to conjure up the master's mercurial spirit, reprising such examples of his work as the haunting ballad Naima and the gospel-tinged The Promise. But as Coltrane himself would no doubt have preferred, much of the material for this session is new. Bluesin' for John C., a Tyner composition that grew out of a studio improvisation, sets a loose and joyous tone reminiscent of a revival meeting. David Murray, a young tenor player with a fat tone like Sonny Rollins and a honking tremolo like Albert Ayler, contributes two compositions that are aggressively forward-looking. In The Last of the Hipmen, Murray and Tyner engage in a hard-driving rhythmic interplay suggested but never fully explored in Coitrane's groups. And in Trane (available only on the CD version), Sanders and Murray shake the rafters with a theme from Coitrane's The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost in a rapturous free-for-all. Though it falls short of the revelatory brilliance of Coitrane's own recordings, this album is confirmation that there are still jazzmen brave enough to continue his quest. (Impulse!)

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