Denys Baptiste – Late Trane
(Edition Records EDN 1093. CD review by Mike Collins)
The label on this particular tin tells you all you need to know about the inspiration for Denys Baptiste’s latest project. It’s no casual undertaking however. The eight Coltrane pieces, alongside two Baptiste originals, retain their character and shape, but are imbued with the sound and influences of the band and the decades since the seminal ’60s recordings.
Dusk to Dawn announces its presence with a rumble and clatter from the band of Gary Crosby on bass, Rod Youngs on drums and Nikki Yeoh on piano. Baptiste’s warm tone on tenor has a keening edge. Yeoh’s piano solo creeps in, building atmosphere and intensity slowly before the tenor re-joins to reach a swirling climax with a ghostly blast of Marley-esque reggae in the outro.
Throughout the set, atmospheres are allowed to breath and develop, interspersed with urgent often contemporary takes on grooves. Ascent, after a couple of teasing, note-bending riffs from the bass, snaps into a funky groove, Youngs urgently nudging them on and Yeoh switching to synths. Vigil, with the addition of the austere tenor of Steve Williamson and bass of Neil Charles (Charles plays on half of the album), has an edgy clattering groove. After the Rain gets a gentle back beat and an optimistic singing chord sequence, Yeoh’s increasingly ecstatic piano solo making deft references to McCoy Tyner’s original accompaniment.
Dear Lord, a duo between Baptiste and bass, has a bracing tango-like groove. Living Space, Peace on Earth and Baptiste’s own Astral Trane are all rubato, ruminative pieces, the judicious use of electronics providing embellishment.
Baptiste’s own impassioned playing is the connecting thread throughout the album. The dialogue with Williamson adds zest and grit. The two trade phrases and bounce ideas around on Baptiste’s original Neptune in the midst of the eddies and gusts of group improvisation and the conversation continues through Vigil and Astral trane. Baptiste has the last word with Dear Lord. A snatch of dialogue from the studio that follows is allowed to sum it all up: “Yeah, done!” someone says, another voice adding “It’s what it is”.
Baptiste may record infrequently (this only his fifth album in 18 years), but the quality, commitment and emotional impact leap out of the speakers.