Alice Coltrane in Wonderland

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Johnny Loftus writes: Ever the jazz purist curmudgeon, our man Charles Latimer checks in with this review of Alice Coltrane's Sept. 23 performance at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor:

I should really stop getting excited about jazz shows, because I’m usually disappointed when they finally occur. Alice Coltrane’s performance Saturday evening at Hill Auditorium, in Ann Arbor was another letdown. How could it be a letdown when the pianist performed with her son, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and jazz greats Charlie Haden (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums)? Well, the concert highlights a point I’ve been making for years: putting great jazz musicians such as the Coltranes, Haden, and Haynes together on the same stage isn’t a guaranteed formula for a memorable show. And, on this occasion anyway, the group simply didn't gel. To be honest, they really sounded unrehearsed. Mrs. Coltrane switched back and forth from the piano to the Wurlitzer organ. She was charming when she spoke to the audience, and she clapped her hands together and bowed sage-like when the audience gave her three standing ovations. She even displayed her chops with a solo on “Sita Ram,” explaining that the piece was Gandhi’s favorite spiritual song. But when she performed selections from her Translinear Light album, Coltrane appeared to be functioning in another world. Ravi Coltrane sounded uncomfortable playing his old man’s tunes “Impressions” and “Leo,” and Haden only opened up on a charming duet with Alice — the rest of the night he seemed disinterested. Roy Haynes was the only constant. At 81, he’s as agile a drummer as ever, and when he soloed on “Impressions” his band mates cleared the stage, giving him the spotlight. The dapper drummer went into showboat mode, and the audience ate it up.

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