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Wednesday 26th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Celebrating John Coltrane

Cafe Oto, London E8


FIFTY years ago this month, that greatest of jazz saxophonists John Coltrane died.

In homage, three of his finest British saxophone emulators gather at Cafe Oto to reinterpret tracks from Sun Ship, one of his greatest albums, released in 1965.

Paul Dunmall is a south Londoner who, in an early US sojourn, played with Coltrane’s wife Alice.

His deeply spiritual and folkrooted sound derives partly from his intense love of Coltrane’s music and his Sun Ship Quartet.

Along with fellow virtuosi — tenorist Howard Cottle, tightly plunging bassist Olie Brice and rampaging New York drummer Tony Bianco — this group of outstanding musicians combine to generate a unified, primal energy.

With them as guest is another Coltrane-inspired tenorist Alan Skidmore, who vividly remembers hearing the master live at a life-changing gig in Walthamstow in 1961.

Since then his long career as a jazz innovator has included sessions with Coltrane’s two most brilliant drummers, Elvin Jones — who played on Sun Ship — and Rashied Ali, along with two outstanding Coltrane accolade albums Tribute to Coltrane and After the Rain.

The quartet begins with Amen and Dunmall’s incendiary horn rouses in a pulsating opening before Bianco’s thunderous drums solo.

The quivering vibrato of Cottle’s saxophone rises like a hymn to humanity at the outset of Dearly Beloved, while Brice’s delving notes plunge earthwards.

It’s a praise song which the veteran Skidmore develops as, in sonic comradeship with his confreres, he bursts into the dynamic beauty of Attaining.

His depth of sound tells of a musical life blazed a continent and ocean away from the land of Coltrane but it’s nonetheless an achievement for all that.

Here, in the vibrant heart of cosmopolitan London, Coltrane’s dream of beauty, justice and fulfilment for all the world’s people still finds profound nourishment.

Chris Searle