Back in 2009 Atzmon released his tribute to Charlie Parker on his album In Loving Memory of America, a collaboration with violinist and arranger Ros Stephen and the Sigamos String Quartet. Atzmon has collaborated with them again for his 2017 album The Spirit of Trane. “I really like working with strings and with Ros Stephens. And this kind of flashiness that I hear in Coltrane’s Ballads and the album with Johnny Hartman. However, I think that Coltrane never worked with strings so we do something for him.”
In paying tribute to Coltrane, Atzmon was keen to avoid any kind of mimicry and to focus instead on trying to capture the spirit of Coltrane, hence the title of the album. “John Coltrane was always my greatest possible hero and 50 years without Coltrane is a good excuse to explore how close I can reach, at least spiritually. We didn’t try to mimic him but we tried to sustain an aspect of the spirit.”
Atzmon is keen to capture this spirit on all the different instruments that he plays. “When it comes to soprano, I think that I’m pretty close. When it comes to tenor, I’m still searching intensively, but I’m getting there. I don’t try to mimic the sound. I try to bring this free spirit that is associated with the quartet, which I really, really like.”
“For most of my time, living in this country, for the last 20 years, I’ve played mostly alto, but I’m originally a tenor player. A lot of people who like my alto playing can recognise that it’s very tenor-ish. And when I play tenor, because I’ve played alto in the past two decades, I’m exploring the bottom range so for that reason, on the album, I sound more like Joe Henderson, which is not a bad thing, I guess.”
Currently in the middle of a busy tour, Atzmon is excited about the positive effect that performing the music has had both on him as a musician and on the band. “We’ve done 20-30 gigs already as a quartet and the impact of playing this music every night is incredible. Incredible.”
Audiences have similarly been impressed with performances. “I don’t remember us selling so much merchandise in years! People really want to take it home.” The Verdict in Brighton is one of Atzmon’s favourite places to play and he’s excited about returning there with his latest project. “It’s going to be a great gig.”
Gilad Atzmon performs at The Verdict, Brighton on Friday 3rd November, 2017.
For more on Gilad Atzmon: www.gilad.co.uk
The album The Spirit of Trane is out now on the Fanfare label.
Photo of Gilad Atzmon and Yaron Stavi by Lisa Wormsley (cropped from original).