Saturday, November 04, 2017

Ravi Coltrane Extras

Last week, I was able to get some time with Ravi Coltrane, who is coming to town tonight for the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert. Most of our conversation can be found in this article from City Paper. But there was some good stuff that wound up on the cutting room floor including one topic in particular. 

When I saw Coltrane at the Detroit Jazz Festival several years ago, he played a few songs on the sopranino saxophone. The last time he came to town for the Seminar, he didn't bring it, but said that he might "next time." Turns out that subject served as a good ice breaker for our talk.

First question - are you bringing the sopranino this time?

Coltrane: [Laughs] It's possible. I've been traveling with it pretty regularly. Did I have it last time?

No, but you told me that you'd bring it when you came back.

Well, I guess it's a must!

You don't see many people playing it, outside of Roscoe Mitchell or Anthony Braxton. There's someone else, but I forget who.{I think Jon Irabagon was the name that was escaping me.] What do you like about it?

I bought the instrument from Roberto’s Winds in New York, kind of on a lark. I was in there for either some repairs or reeds. And Roberto, who I’ve known for decades, asked me if I had ever played a sopranino before. He had just gotten some horns in. I tried it in the shop and thought it was fun to play. It was so difficult to play it in tune that it never left my house for about five years! It was just something that I had around the house to noodle on. I remember having a jam session at my place and taking it out and trying it with the group and immediately putting it back down! The intonation was very difficult to play in tune. But I always play it, I play it for fun.

The first time I played it in public was with Jack DeJohnette and Matt Garrison. The situation was almost calling for it. It was a trio setting, right at the beginning when we started working together as a trio. Jack wanted a lot of different sounds and elements. Matt was using some electronics and Jack had a few electric drums. I didn’t want to show up with just one instrument, show up with the tenor. I ended up bringing the sopranino with me to the rehearsal at the Matt’s club, the Shape Shifter, here in Brooklyn. I had a chance, playing without a chordal instrument, to kind of fudge the tuning a little bit. But there was something about the projection of the instrument. It felt like I was playing a trumpet or something. It had a very brassy, brash kind of …. It’s not a fancy instrument. It has some grit to it. It rattles a little bit, and squawks and has some balls to it. I started playing it in Jack's group and I started playing it in my own group. And the intonation starting coming together!

You can hear the difference in it. It's distinct but I'm not sure exactly how to describe it.


Yeah, that's it!

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