In 2002, the BlackRock Center for the Arts established itself as the heart of Germantown when it gave fans of theater, dance, classical music, jazz, folk and everything in between a place to celebrate the arts without leaving Montgomery County. It’s been ten years since it first opened its doors, and, if the list of this season’s scheduled performers is any indication, there are sure to be plenty more milestones ahead. Several artists are back this season for return engagements while others will be introduced to BlackRock audiences for the first time (for a full schedule of performances, go to http://blackrockcenter.org).
For its Tenth Anniversary season, BlackRock plans to “honor the past while looking toward the future.” One artist whose very life and career personifies what BlackRock’s Tenth Anniversary season represents is jazz saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. Coltrane, son of the late John and Alice Coltrane, is a mirror image of the best the jazz world had to offer while his career is a testament to what jazz can become.
The multi-talented jazz innovator kicked off BlackRock’s Tenth Anniversary season this past Saturday night (September 17, 2011) with a two-hour performance followed by a Q & A session that was hosted by Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart of capitalbop.com. Though the crowd was small, they were tuned into the performance– leaning forward in their seats, watching intently and showing their appreciation for the artist and his music whenever they felt led to do so. It was a great night. Guitarist David Gilmore, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer EJ Strickland joined Coltrane on stage for the opening night performance.
In keeping with the theme of honoring the past while looking toward the future, the show began with Coltrane diving headfirst into his father’s composition “Satellite.” Plagued throughout his career by comparisons to his legendary, saxophonist father and questions about life with his spiritually-rooted, pianist mother, Coltrane revealed himself within his father’s music just as any saxophonist influenced by the jazz legend would. In fact, when asked during the question and answer session about the pressure of being John Coltrane’s son and performing as a jazz musician on the same instrument that his father made famous, Coltrane responded, “I’m a saxophone player. As an improvising saxophone player, there are certain players that we’re all compelled to listen to. I didn’t choose to be a musician because I was John Coltrane’s son or Alice Coltrane’s son… I play music, because I love it.” And the performance took off from there.
Balancing equal parts proficiency and creativity, the saxophonist performed a total of eight songs. In addition to “Satellite,” standout selections included original compositions such as “Prelude,” and “October Tune,” in addition to Bob Dorough’s “Nothing Like You,” Ralph Towner’s “The Glide,” and jazz favorite “Autumn in New York.” Coltrane is currently touring and working on a new recording for Blue Note Records.
The Tenth Anniversary season festivities continue this Saturday, September 24, 2011 with a performance by Latin jazz group Rumba Club. See the website for additional details.