Ravi Coltrane | Mad 6 – [Sony, 2002]A saxophonist whose patiently evolving style has been one of the more interesting stories in contemporary jazz, Ravi Coltrane helps launch Columbia’s Eighty-Eights subsidiary (founded by Japanese producer Yasohachi “88” Itoh) with a set that is by turns more freewheeling and lyrical than his previous major label efforts. Featuring two bands–one with George Colligan on piano and the other Andy Milne–Mad 6 reflects Ravi’s involvement in both jazz classicism and the throbbing, funkified bop of Brooklyn’s M-Base school. His tenor has never plumbed richer emotion than it does on Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now,” while the forcefully minimalistic “Avignon” is one of his more compelling originals.
Bracketed by two lesser-played tunes by his legendary father, John Coltrane, the album could have done without yet another version of Monk’s “Round Midnight.” But with Ravi whizzing through the changes on soprano over Steve Hass’ gutbucket drumming, it’s a nifty remake by an artist who seems incapable of taking anything at face value. —Lloyd Sachs