Star-Ledger Entertainment Staff August 10, 2007 10:00PM
John Coltrane had a relatively short time in the jazz limelight: He was first heard widely through his mid-1950s performances with Miles Davis, and in 1967, he died of liver disease.
In that small span of years, Coltrane became an immensely influential saxophonist and theoretician. His continuing impact can be heard in the styles of scores of musicians; his recordings regularly remain in print.
Coltrane was feted Thursday at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) amphitheater in West Orange, when saxophonists Don Braden and Ralph Lalama, and guitarist Vic Juris, among several others, examined the breadth of material written by, or associated with, the saxophonist.
The musicians also included pianist Xavier Davis, trumpeter Gregory Rivkin, bassist Bill Moring, drummer Tim Horner, and singer Kate Baker -- all Garden State residents, save Lalama. Most of the performers were instructors at the annual OSPAC Jazz and World Music Workshop, held Monday through yesterday at West Orange High School.
"Love Thy Neighbor," an obscure standard recorded by Coltrane at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Englewood Cliffs in 1958, was a solid opener. It gave all hands a chance to loosen up, and swing.
Braden and Rivkin held down the front line on Trane's memorable minor blues, "Equinox." The trumpeter, with his persuasive sound and economical improvisatory style, told a story with chords played in imaginative ways and lines that unfolded surprisingly. Braden, boasting a lively sound and animated ideas, was hard-swinging here, almost funky there. His emotive high cries drew shouts from listeners.
Juris also ranged in his solo, with some ideas boasting a distorted bluesy twang, others more down-home, B.B. King-like. Behind the soloists, Davis, Moring, and Horner kept the rhythm bubbling.
Lalama was spotlighted on "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," another standard Coltrane favored. With his round, firm sound, the saxophonist Lalama issued flowing bebop lines, chordal explorations a la the honoree, and alluring trills. Davis, coaxing quite a realistic piano sound out of a portable keyboard, took his ideas unexpected places, continually creating interest.
Baker, OSPAC artistic director and Juris' wife, sang "My One and Only Love," which was recorded by Coltrane with singer Johnny Hartman. Her breathy, soft-voiced interpretation -- performed with her Goldendoodle, Jimi, sitting obediently at her feet -- was backed solely by Juris, with Lalama adding intriguing fills. Later, the guitarist shined with a telling version of Trane's ballad, "Naima."
"The Promise" showcased Moring, whose bold, muscular sound had anchored the rhythm section. His powerful solo was built on packets of hip notes delivered with rhythmic panache. Horner also soloed, going from quiet drum taps to a sizzle of cymbals.
The closing "Take the Coltrane" featured several guests. Alto saxophonist Lou Quagliato, guitarists Seth Johnson and Misha Fatkhiyev, bassist Adrian Moring (bassist Moring's son), and drummer John Czolacz were all exemplary, playing with spirit and invention. The number also included some exciting phrases trade between Lalama and Rivkin.
Jazz continues at OSPAC, 4 Boland Dr. (off Prospect Ave. near Hwy. 280), West Orange, tonight, 7 p.m., with student ensembles from the Jazz and World Music workshops. On Sept. 8-9, the organization hosts its 5th annual jazz festival. The artists include saxophonist Houston Person, singer Rosanna Vitro, trumpeter Wallace Roney, guitarist Dave Stryker, and the Dizzy Gillespie All- Star Big Band. No charge for events, although a $5 suggested donation is solicited at the entrance. Call (973) 669-7385 or visit www.ospac.org.
International Trumpet Guild Journal
Lyrical, nicely-flowing and hard swinging lines in true-bop fashion, very reminiscent of Freddy Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw.
New York Concert Review
Rivkin gave a brilliant performance.