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Listening Post: Jack DeJohnette and the offspring of the classic Coltrane Quartet; Gergiev Tackles Scriabin

Jazz

Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison, “Movement” (ECM). This would have been one of the great jazz records of 2016 even if you couldn’t confirm that judgement by actually listening to it. Why? Because this is a disc with an irresistible and majestic pedigree. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is the superb son of John Coltrane. Bassist Matthew Garrison is the son of Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane’s magnificent bassist in his classic quartet. Bringing them together here is, arguably, the greatest living jazz drummer (and, as well, one of the greatest living jazz virtuosos on ANY instrument.) Anyone thinking that the sons of giants would be timid around their fathers’ great music needs to be disabused of that notion quickly. The disc goes right to a Coltrane Quartet classic of greatest significance – the lacerating and eternally moving “Alabama.” Nor is that all. “Blue in Green” is here too making something altogether different out of the classic piece from “Kind of Blue,” the greatest record by the Miles Davis Sextet with Cannonball Adderly of which Coltrane was such a crucial part. A new composition on the terrific disc is by DeJohnette and Coltrane and is called “Rashied.” It’s devoted to John Coltrane’s magnificent final drummer Rashied Ali. To actually hear this disc of such golden pedigree reveals it to be great by any possible assay – a living giant on jazz drums with the spectacularly gifted offspring of two other jazz giansts. Terrific in every way. Four stars out of four stars. (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Scriabin, Symphonies 1 and 2 performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev (LSO) Think of this disc as the glorious answer to a Carnac The Magnificent question about classical recording: what recording by a living conductor would be an ideal way to hear the first and second symphonies of Alexander Scriabin. Here you have it, the follow up to the even more ideal (and important) Gergiev reading of Scriabin’s ecstatic third and fourth symphonies. In these earlier symphonies, Scriabin hadn’t yet become the self-created spiritual monster who wrote “I am the apotheosis of creation – I am the sum of all aims –I am the end of all ends.” A kind of divine solipsism unites the very different Scriabin in Russia and Walt Whitman in America. But in both cases, something that could be easily dismissed as unbalanced megalomania (especially in the visionary case of Scriabin) can also be read as a kind of transcendent spirituality. A lot of conductors are excited by the prospect of conducting Scriabin and do a bang-up job of it. Unlike any of them among the currently great orchestra conductors, Gergiev is an absolute natural for conducting Scriabin. It’s impossible to imagine the composer being anything BUT ecstatic about this 21st century interpreter of his ecstasies. The only thing difficult to be ecstatic about is the engineering here which should have been less redolent of the concert hall and more of the recording studio. Nevertheless, great performances of Scriabin, a composer who can, for some of us, never have enough of them. Three and a half stars out of four. (Jeff Simon)