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High Five

Ravi Coltrane on five essential Jack DeJohnette performances

Deborah Feingold

Listening to Ravi Coltrane talk is like listening to jazz itself; humble and sincere, his lingering phrases inviting you to lean in closer. The son of legends John and Alice Coltrane, he continues to sustain and redefine his family name. Look for Coltrane on saxophone as part of the Jack DeJohnette Trio, along with bassist Matthew Garrison (son of John Coltrane Quartet bassist Jimmy Garrison) on Dec. 4 at Berklee Performance Center. The trio plays improvisationally, Coltrane explains, blending standard motifs with spontaneous interludes. Having worked with DeJohnette for more than 20 years, he cites the iconic drummer as an inspiration. “The first time I worked with him, it opened my eyes; it really changed my whole way of thinking of what was possible,” Coltrane marveled during a recent phone interview. “You get on the stage with Jack and he’s free, and in some ways you become free as well.” Asked for his pick of five essential DeJohnette performances, Coltrane replied simply at first: “With Jack, it’s every time he plays.”

“Turnaround” with Pat Metheny


“[On Metheny’s ‘80/81’], the last track they play is a tune called ‘Turnaround,’ by Ornette Coleman, and Jack is Jack, he’s playing so great. Usually you finish a tape in a studio and everyone has to be very quiet as the last chord rings out. But before this track is even over, you hear Charlie [Haden] go, ‘Whoa, hey man! Jack DeJohnette!’ He was so completely blown away by what Jack had just played, he shouts out before the song even ends.”

“Leo” with Alice and Ravi Coltrane

“Here’s one off a record that I produced, my mother’s last Impulse album, called ‘Translinear Light.’ We did a composition of my father’s, titled ‘Leo.’ It’s one of these multidirectional rhythmic pieces, where there isn’t a primary tempo or pulse . . . more like this undercurrent, maybe even just a current. And Jack sustains this flow for 10 minutes or however long. It’s incredible.”


“Take the Coltrane” with Dave Holland

“Duke Ellington did a recording with my father, in 1962 . . . and Duke wrote this blues line for my father in the studio, ‘Take the Coltrane.’ There’s a really nice version of that with Jack and Steve Coleman and Holland on [‘Triplicate’]. It’s funny, them playing it in a trio, and with this trio format now with Jack: The format is very open, and I’m not surprised that record is one that caught my ear, all those years ago.”

“A Penny Saved” with Sonny Rollins

“There was a performance [at the Montreal Jazz Festival], and Sonny lets Jack take this very long drum solo in the middle of this live gig. The solo goes on for, I don’t know, 10 minutes? And it keeps building, and getting greater and greater. . . . Oh man, they just played so incredibly.”

“Song X” with Ornette and Denardo Coleman

“Denardo Coleman, Ornette’s son, also plays drums on the record. The idea of Jack balancing his sound and power with the sound of the other drummer definitely is something that requires a good ear, and a good sensibility. But really, it’s [Jack’s] knowledge of the material and his understanding of it, how he connects and relates to it, that becomes the song — the rhythmic song.”

The Jack DeJohnette Trio plays at Berklee Performance Center on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $30-$48. 617-747-2261, www.berklee.edu/bpc


Mallory Abreu can be reached at mallory.abreu