Sax machine Ravi Coltrane talks about his new project and vaunted heritage

Ravi Coltrane is many things: a producer (credits include Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour), a son (his parents were John and Alice Coltrane), and an accomplished jazz saxophonist in his own right (his latest album was 2005's In Flux). We recently caught up with Coltrane to discuss his upcoming albums, his early ambitions, and his vaunted music heritage.

New Times: Can we expect any new albums in the near future?

Ravi Coltrane: I'm working on a quartet record. There will be tracks with other musicians, such as Charlie Haden and a very talented harpist named Brandee Younger. The record was supposed to be out already, but it was not an easy year for me. My mother passed away [on January 12, 2007].

Ravi Coltrane brings his swing to Scottsdale this week.
John Abbott
Ravi Coltrane brings his swing to Scottsdale this week.

NT: Yeah, man. I was sorry to hear about her passing. How are you doing these days?

Coltrane: It's still very surreal and unbelievably tough. Last year, I was still walking, talking, breathing, being a father, and playing gigs, but I couldn't create anything. I couldn't produce anything. I didn't complete anything. When you start feeling directionless, it's hard to create and to really get anything done. It's only now that I am trying to make an attempt at creating.

NT: Do you have a favorite memory of your mother?

Coltrane: It's hard to say. Since I only had one parent growing up [John Coltrane died in 1967 when Ravi was approaching age 2], she was like the sun, and you're in this orbit from the minute you can walk. My most recent memory is the Translinear Light recording I did with her [in 2004]. My mother really didn't want to make a record. Her primary focus later in life was her spiritual practice. The professional part of music didn't exist for her after 1980. I would say, "C'mon, Mom. Let's go into the studio and make a record." I begged for a long time. Once she agreed, I felt very confident with the direction of the record. I'm never that confident about anything [laughs]. But with this particular thing, I knew what was supposed to happen. I could hear the record before it was even made.

NT: Did you ever want to be something other than a jazz musician?

Coltrane: I wanted to play clarinet in an orchestra because I liked classical music as a kid. I thought it might lead into other stuff, like conducting. But then I started to get pulled away to this jazz thing when I was around 19 to 21 years old.

NT: As the Coltrane family archivist, can we expect any new releases from your mom or dad's catalog?

Coltrane: There's a John Coltrane 1966 concert at Temple University that was recorded for the radio. It has Rashied Ali, Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, my mother, percussionists, and an alto player. [The late] Michael Brecker was at that concert when he was a teenager and it was the only time he saw my father play. I normally don't make copies of these types of recordings for friends, but I had to make Michael a copy since he was there and his whole life was dedicated to John's music. He had a very sincere passion for John Coltrane.

 
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