1 March 2020

Album Review: Lakecia Benjamin – Pursuance: The Coltranes

Lakecia Benjamin

Pursuance: The Coltranes


The grand tradition of reinterpreting and bringing to life the music of famous composers past has indeed been done countless times in the history of recorded jazz. Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington springs to mind, Monk’s reimagining of classic big band tunes arranged for a simple trio have since become a classic in the jazz fanatics’ core collection. Carrying on this tradition, young New York-based alto saxophonist and composer Lakecia Benjamin brings a unique spin on this challenge by exploring the relationship between Alice and John Coltrane’s musical oeuvre. It must have been hard for Monk to prepare and rearrange the music of a musical giant appearing only a generation before himself so one can only imagine the unique challenge that Benjamin faces when breathing new life into the music of two such colossal icons whose music has stood the test of time whilst remaining unchanged. That being said, Benjamin has more than shown us she’s up to the challenge and she has done it whilst showing deep respect for tradition, a burning passion for the music itself and executed it with modern flare. This can’t just be said for the music but also the extraordinary roster of musicians she has chosen to appear on this album. We see the names of legendary jazz bassists Reggie Workman and Ron Carter. Workman is a known figure for his work with John Coltrane’s early quartet whilst Carter worked with Alice Coltrane on her early releases as band leader. Not only has Benjamin recruited these living legends to accompany her on this musical odyssey, she has also included jazz luminary, drummer and composer Brian Blade. Alongside these stellar figures, Lakecia Benjamin has brought in some newer names, pianist Sharp Radway, drummer Joe Blaxx and vocalist Jazzmeia Horn among others to complete this album’s golden lineup. With a clear artistic vision from start to finish this album shows a real understanding of both the Coltrane’s music. The approach to each composition shows careful thought in its arrangement and interpretation with pieces selected from different periods of the both composers careers. Ranging from John Coltrane’s fast bop from the breakthrough album Giant Steps to his more spiritual searching in A Love Supreme balanced with Alice’s Coltrane’s blues-based roots in Turiya and Ramakhrishna from 1970 release Ptah The El Daoud to her ever growing spiritualism and influence of Indian musical traditions, the track Om Shanti is a perfect example of this. In spite of so much variety from track to track both band leader and her ensemble maintain a sense of fluidity throughout. Always bursting with the intense energy of John Coltrane but also at the same keeping the refinement and gentleness of Alice Coltrane. Lakecia Benjamin has been cited as one of the trailblazers of the new generation of New York jazz musicians and this release reinforces that statement.

George Richardson

[Pursuance: The Coltranes is released on March 27, 2020]

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