A Legacy Supreme, Ravi Coltrane at Jazz Standard

Few jazz artists have the legacy of Ravi Coltrane.  To say jazz is in his blood is an understatement; he is jazz royalty.  His father, John Coltrane, created the quintessential jazz opus with Love Supreme and is actually a saint.  His mother, Alice Coltrane, was a jazz pianist, composer, harpist and organist who led her own band and accompanied her husband.

Extending the legacy given to him by his parents, Ravi is an accomplished post-bop saxophonist.  Since 1998 he has released six albums as a band leader, the last being Spirit Fiction in 2012 on Blue Note along with dozens of appearances as a sideman on various artists’ albums ranging from Steve Coleman to Flying Lotus.  He is also the co-owner of RKM Music.

Although this winter has been one of the harshest in recent history, Coltrane’s appearance at Jazz Standard got February started on a smooth, sublime note.    The Ravi Coltrane Quintet, comprised of Coltrane on tenor sax, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Aaron Parks on piano, Bob Hurst on bass and Jeff “Train” Watts on drums, were featured at Jazz Standard from February 3-8.  The set included five numbers; the first was Ornette Coleman’s Bird Food.  The second was Word Order from Coltrane’s 2000 album From the Round Box.  The third was a piece titled Between Lines.  The set concluded with For Turiya a piece written for Alice Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners with arrangements by Jeff Watts.   The Ravi Coltrane Quintet played the role of shamen.  They enchanted us with soothing, intricate layers of melody.  Hearing Coltrane live with the accompaniment of Parks, Hurst, Alessi and Watts was magical.  Overall it was like a hot toddy on a frosty night – warm, soothing with just the right dose of kick courtesy of Watts’ arrangement of Brilliant Corners.  It swung with a bit of a hip hop beat and would make a perfect sample.  As for Coltrane, he has successfully carried the legacy of his family all while carving a lane for himself.  He has truly earned the moniker “renaissance man.”

Most clubs don’t live up to the illustrious names that their owners bequeath to them.  Jazz Standard is the exception, it is the prototype of what jazz spot should be – intimate, comfortable and filled with melody.  Located at 116 East 27th Street, any jazz buff can walk down a flight of stairs and treat themselves to a plate of barbeque and night of legendary talent and the best new artisans of jazz.

 

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A History Lesson – Kaminski Style

Since the beginning of mankind, humans have kept records of events.  These narratives shape our civilization.  People turn to the history books to learn about the past, understand the present and possibly predict the future.  But visual art can sometimes render words unnecessary. Such is the case of Ken Kaminski and his paintings that chronicle the events of 911, the recovery period that continues to unfold and indeed the period before September 11, 2001.  Through hues of purple, yellow, red, blue, black, white, and through the style of Abstract Expressionism, Ken Kaminski retells a story that is permanently etched in the minds of everyone in this nation.

BaghdadLast August Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings were featured at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Edward Williams Gallery.   This exhibit offered viewers a pictorial on canvas spanning from the airplanes slicing through perfect blue skies, to the chaos and destruction of the twin towers and ultimately their demise.  And like history, the lessons of the past can and sometimes do repeat themselves.  With Kaminski the story of his 9/11 work has come back around again and although the plot is slightly altered, the impact is just as potent. On January 31, Kaminski’s Recovery Paintings exhibit opened at Walter Wickiser Gallery.  The exhibit is comprised of seven paintings: Baghdad (1991), Wounded Towers (2002), Collapse (2011), Intersection (2011), Intersection 2 (2011) and Ghost Towers (2011). On the crisp white walls of this Chelsea gallery, Kaminski’s paintings and the story they convey take on new life.

The tale begins with Baghdad.  Geometric shapes burst from a tawny plain. Waves of red and black anchor the bottom to the painting.  In a way these impressions look like oil and blood that has been shed for that oil.  Dead center is a bull’s eye.  If a history buff was inclined to trace back the events that led to 9/11 one would have to make a stop at Baghdad, in fact, some might argue it was the first ground zero.

Wounded Towers_KaminskiWounded Towers goes straight to the center of that horrible day.  As the towers bend, slowly yielding to their fate, bold colors of red, white, blue, yellow, green and black entangle the surface.  Between the brushstrokes and paint Kaminski smeared with his fingers, the agony of the fuming towers is consciously and unconsciously evident.  While I viewed this painting last year, this time I was able to see a under case “p” resting in the middle.  When I saw it I was gobsmacked.  Why haven’t I seen it before? P…pain, and why haven’t I ever used that word to describe that day?

Collapse_KaminskiCollapse is an overwhelmingly tumultuous piece. You can see the tower being taken asunder in copious shades of blue and black and streaks of yellow and orange and a splash of red. As with Wounded Towers a “p” appears in the center of the painting. It’s dark and sweeps over you like a tidal wave.

Intersection_KaminskiIntersection and Intersection 2 return once again, and more directly, to the geometric shapes that are present in Baghdad only these shapes are surrounded by thicker, darker hues.  The dense globules of paint reminded me of the soot that covered the surrounding area of Ground Zero or the heavy plumes of smoke that hovered over the smoldering remnants for days. Like its title these works act as a conduit linking what was to what is and the possibly of what might be.

Ghost Towers_KaminskiGhost Towers is a piece with spiritual dimensions.  In this work Kaminski pays homage to lives lost on 9/11.   In total, all of these works tell a distinct story about history from a very distinct point of view.  But chronicling modern events using paint and canvas is only one of the narratives this exhibit tells.  The other signifies the title of the exhibit itself, Recovery Paintings.  Although Kaminski has fused sociopolitical themes into his work previously, the paintings that were influenced by the events of 9/11 were his therapy – a way to reconcile the horror and enormity of a moment in time that continues to affect us.  Indeed his recovery has become our recovery and as we continue to look back on 9/11 while trying to navigate our present and future, Kaminski gives a starting point that can be used in our healing as we continue to record and create history.