Questing After Coltrane's Messy Transcendence


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The dauntless, combustible energies of jazz’s 1960s avant-garde have long held a deep attraction for the guitarist Marc Ribot. His public profile may involve a great deal of tact and concision — he works widely as a gun for hire, often infusing low-gloss pop albums with a proper hint of twang — but as a bandleader he tends to reach for a messier, more transcendent ideal. In recent years he has expressed that impulse best through his band Spiritual Unity, inspired by the free-jazz firebrand Albert Ayler.

He’s after the same thing with Sun Ship, named after an album of similar temperament by John Coltrane. Mr. Ribot unveiled this group in May, during a week of festivities tied to his 55th birthday. It resurfaced on Wednesday night at Rose Live Music in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, drawing largely from the album.

“Sun Ship” was recorded in late August 1965, a time of steep transition for Coltrane. Two months earlier he had made his large-canvas free-jazz album “Ascension.” He still had his quartet, but his music was pulling away from its foundations. On one level “Sun Ship” reflects Coltrane’s attunement to younger saxophonists like Ayler. On another it represents a moment of late grace for his landmark first band. (It was released in 1971, four years after Coltrane’s death.)

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