A Suitably Pyrotechnic Revisitation of Coltrane's Signature Testimony

Branford gets it right.
photo: Jazz at Lincoln Center
Branford gets it right.

Released on both audio and video in one package, Branford Marsalis's live version of A Love Supreme gets it right. Coltrane's four-part suite was his religious testimony; Marsalis is chasing Coltrane, not salvation, but whereas his earlier attempt on Footsteps of Our Fathers left him panting, here he keeps pace with a display of saxophone pyrotechnics comparable to Coltrane's, though very different in character. His tone is lighter and his phrasing bluesier, especially on "Pursuance" (the second movement, and more or less Miles Davis's "Nardis" turned upside down), where his gradual ascent into the scream register shows he knows the difference between building to a climax and giving in to self-induced frenzy. And though his mano a mano with drummer Tain Watts is almost as brutal as Coltrane's with Elvin, some of the theme statements are so abstract ("Acknowledgement" 's, for example) that you recognize the familiar melodies only from Joey Calderazzo's piano chords. This is the Branford Marsalis we've been waiting for. He does honor to a classic while finally emerging as his own man.

 
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