Marcus Roberts Trio: Trio Crescent: Celebrating Coltrane
You might wonder how a piano trio can pay tribute to the music of John Coltrane without a saxophone in sight. In particular, how could a sax-free group attempt to bottle the spirit of an album as seminal as Trane’s 1964 masterpiece Crescent, the recording that preceded the timeless A Love Supreme ? Coltrane’s Crescent featured his peerless quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, and Marcus Roberts’ group is certainly up to the task—the pianist, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis are exceptional musicians. It was a difficult task to devise a new interpretation of this music that doesn’t simply feel like it’s missing a key component, yet they accomplished that goal admirably by not attempting to compensate for the absence of saxophone. Roberts is a crafty creator of melodies, full-bodied stories that amplify all of the open space in the room. Those melodies are front and center throughout, on tracks like “Bessie’s Blues” (more than twice as long as Trane’s original) and the title track, wherein Roberts alternately provides the rhythmic base of the tune and peels out intricate, elegant fills that, in their own way, nod to Coltrane’s mind-fucking runs. As on the original, “The Drum Thing” is solo time for the guy in the back, then bassist Jordan is featured on “Traneing In,” a Coltrane tune dating to 1958 that utilized a different trio. By the end, Trio Crescent no longer feels like a tribute, but like a recording that very much stands on its own merits.