A somewhat overlooked gift of John Coltrane’s was his ability (even more so than most jazz icons) to mesmerize lay audiences, who could get off on the riskiness of his solos without being able to pin down exactly why. Wayne Shorter has a similar mystique, and Coltrane’s son, Ravi—who sounds more like Shorter on tenor than he does like his father—is rapidly developing one. In Flux is his strongest effort to date, largely due to his luck in finding a perfectly attuned rhythm section in pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer E.J. Strickland. The album’s ballads—”Leaving Avignon” and “Dear Alice” especially—have an air of mystery to them and are all the more lovely for not always behaving like ballads; Perdomo and the others speed up the tempo in response to the tenor’s slightest ripple. Though his soprano technique doesn’t match his authority on tenor, the clarinet-like tone Ravi Coltrane gets is nothing like his father’s Eastern wail. Another difference is his knowing when enough is enough: Fewer than half of the 12 numbers run over five minutes. This is a pity in the case of three promising but very brief collective improvisations, because the rubato ballads prove this band has what it takes to sustain yet vary a mood for longer stretches. That’s what nightclubs are for, I suppose.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 15, 2005