Jack DeJohnette knows how to turn traditions inside out. He can invest light-touch cymbal playing with the feel of pulsing funk. His freer patterns of blast can sound like some of the most refined avant-percussion you've ever heard. Though while DeJohnette is obviously an original, he's not bent on tearing down all the boundaries between jazz sub-genres. His engagement with various aspects of blues and swing flows from an evident reverence for each specific style. Even when pushing his own creative language to new places, DeJohnette manages to keep the inherited forms in view.
Ravi Coltrane's second CD as a leader for the Savoy label (his fifth overall) is balanced between improvisation based on spontaneous themes and compositions that have a certain direction, both concepts blessed with a purpose and vision. Blending Times, as its title implies, signifies his coming of age, his dedication to finding his own voice on the tenor saxophone, and his use of a free-form approach much like his famous parents, John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane, in their later years.
A career on the saxophone with one of the most freethinking saxophonists in music history for a father has to be a tough call. Now 46, Ravi Coltrane, son of John, has often chosen to be a sympathetic sideman rather than the boss. But his Blue Note Records debut as a leader feels like a giant step. The tracks are split between two groups (a quartet with Luis Perdomo on piano, and a superb quintet with Geri Allen at the keys, and Ralph Alessi on trumpet), playing an arrestingly original postbop repertoire, plus covers of pieces by Ornette Coleman and Paul Motian. There are delicate improv conversations between Coltrane and Alessi, passages in which Geri Allen and drummer Eric Harland uncannily recall the sound of the young Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams in the Miles Davis quintet, quiet tone-bending sax ruminations and a deliciously ramshackle version of Ornette Coleman's Check Out Time. It genuinely sounds like a coming-of-age for Ravi Coltrane.