Jack De Johnette, Ravi Coltrane & Matt Garrison Theatre Jean Duceppe, Montreal QC, June 29
Published Jun 30, 2014This is a jazz festival dream gig — the children of two of the John Coltrane Quartet meet with one of the bright young stars of the '60s turned jazz legend in his own right. And yet it didn't all add up.
Jack De Johnette was expectedly in good form when things were grooving, with Matt Garrison's electric bass and effects pedals helping him to build the foundations for rhythms ranging from post-bop to late '60s-type rock fusion. But "Seven D," essentially a post-rock jam with Garrison playing chorded bass as if he was Bryan Adams' rhythm guitarist, gave De Johnette trouble. He was trying to improvise a backbeat driven groove but still stay "jazz," and it just didn't work. There were a couple of flubs as both moved from idea to idea, and the whole thing lost energy at the end of its seemingly interminable length, in which Coltrane couldn't get a word edgewise.
The ensemble was at its best in Coltrane Sr.'s "The Wise One," with de Johnette establishing a lovely texture of metallic sounds amidst Garrison's ghostly reverbed bass. All Ravi had to do was approach the introspective explosiveness of his dad, and he did that well, much to the satisfaction of the audience. Another nice move was De Johnette's move to piano in order to take on Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches." His choice of chords was more dissonant than one would have expected, but again, fluidity was a bit of a problem as he changed from idea to idea awkwardly.
One of the centerpieces of the night was a dedication to De Johnette's wife, but I'm not sure she would have loved a way-too-long bass solo of dubious quality and 15-minute-plus running time. This isn't the first time this configuration has played together, but they've got some work to do if they wish this to be a band that deserves to be a regular outing. Too many lapses, particularly in quieter moments, did this concert in.