VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Lonnie’s Lament” Mixtape
Pound for pound, John Coltrane is the heavyweight champ of post-war modern jazz. He was not only a soloist and bandleader who shaped the jazz of his generation and influenced all who followed, Coltrane was also a great, great composer. No one else created as many jazz standards that continue to be explored in the new millennium. The funny, actually I should say the “ironic,” thing is that Trane was such an imposing force as a soloist that during his lifetime his composing prowess was sometimes overlooked.
“Lonnie’s Lament” is a haunting theme whose elegiac melody is intoned by Trane as though it was a prayer for someone who was deathly ill or recently deceased. On Crescent the tone poem is a vehicle for Jimmy Garrison to fully explore the harmonies of the song before Trane utters the benediction with a solemn recapitulation of the theme.
I remember when the album Crescent came out, I did not rank it as high as previous albums, nor later on did I rank it as high as the albums that followed it, but over the years I find myself returning to Crescent time and again. Crescent is an ultra-modern exploration of the blues. “Lonnie’s Lament” initially appeared to me as an anomaly. It’s eleven minutes long but Coltrane does not solo, he states the theme (admittedly it’s an elegant statement) but after playing the opening melody Coltrane gets out of the way and hands it over to the rhythm section.
From Trane we go to woefully under-rated organist Dr. Lonnie Smith who, ably assisted by guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Smitty Smith, elects to do an all stops out blues investigation that offers up huge hunks of Holy Roller ecstasy in contradistinction to the Episcopalian elegance offered by Coltrane.
Archie Shepp absolutely slaughters any delicacy and decorum as he offers a fire and brimstone sermon—one can only guess at the kind of lifestyle the dearly departed must have assayed. Many find Shepp’s off-kilter roaring off-putting but I sense both humor and deep sensitivity in Shepp’s macho, man-handling of Trane’s durable melody.
Kenny Garrett pulls guitarist Pat Metheny away from fusion land long enough to give us a free jazz like/lite interpretation that is surprisingly satisfying. Although the alto is his horn, Garrett is an astute student of Coltrane and knows how to emulate without imitating.
Que Viva Coltrane
Trombonist Herwig, along with trumpeter Brian Lynch, have undertaken a series of Latin jazz interpretations of straight ahead jazz standards. Their dancing rhythms highlight another facet of Coltrane’s composition. Although it’s usually played as a ballad, the song holds up well as dance floor romp.
Crescent With Love
If anybody can really do Trane it’s Pharoah Sanders. Listeners who are not familiar with the breadth of Sanders’ ballad playing will be forgiven confusing Sanders for Coltrane in the way that Pharoah outlines the majestic theme. Just like Trane, Sanders’ opening statement is full of gentle nuance and beatific understatement rather than the sound and fury usually associated with Sanders (some of which Pharoah unfurls during his closing solo).
The History Of Blue Note, 70th Anniversary
The closing version is a piano solo by McCoy Tyner. It’s a worthy argument for Tyner’s pre-eminence post-Bud Powell. I’m always impressed with Tyner’s harmonic sophistication. Tyner is so good at plummeting the depths of a composition that he could build skyscrapers in a swamp. The man is a musical marvel both of harmonic investigation and melodic invention.
I don’t know who Lonnie was, but I bet you he was one hell of a dude.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 2:41 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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