Pianist Dado Moroni casts a wide net on his tribute to John Coltrane. Five For John not only includes Coltrane compositions like “Naima,” “After the Rain,” and “Mr. PC,” but also tunes that Coltrane famously recorded, like the Soultrane cut “Theme for Ernie” (written by fellow Philadelphian Frank Lacey) and the Gershwin song “But Not For Me” from the Coltrane classic My Favorite Things. Moroni, however, doesn’t stop there, also including compositions by Coltrane Quartet members McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones (“Contemplation,” “Latino Suite,” and “E.J. Blues”), and then a couple of Moroni originals, illustrating the personal mark left by Coltrane on the Italian pianist. It’s a holistic methodology for a tribute album, and it works excessively well, both in theory and practice.
Your album personnel: Dado Moroni (piano), Joe Locke (vibes), Alvin Queen (drums), Marco Panascia (double bass), and guest: Max Ionata (tenor sax).
In addition to Moroni’s novel approach to music tribute, his other inspired decision is the inclusion of vibraphonist Joe Locke in the classic quartet format representative of Coltrane’s output. The other members of the quartet do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of Coltrane’s music without ever resorting to simple mimicry and sacrificing their own sound. Moroni mirrors some of the surging intensity emblematic of both Coltrane’s sax and (Coltrane Quartet member) McCoy Tyner’s piano contributions, and Alvin Queen summons forth plenty of the power and fury of Elvin Jones, his Coltrane Quartet counterpart. Bassist Panascia has a fluency with his instrument that allows him to say plenty when an opening presents itself, no different than the way in which Coltrane would allow his own bassist Jimmy Garrison time to speak his mind with a solo.
But it’s the aspects sussed out by Locke on vibes that is most revelatory on this recording. Much in the way that Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet evoked a resonant spirituality from Coltrane’s music, Locke is equally resonant with Moroni’s quartet, but evincing a change with icy bright notes accentuating the melody while at the same time shading the edges of the tempo. In many ways, even though Moroni is the session leader, and Max Ionata sits in for a handful of tracks on tenor sax, it’s Locke that is shaping the songs into their eminent form. Whether a thrilling solo, like on the McCoy Tyner composition “Contemplation” or setting the table for nifty solos by saxophonist Ionata and Panascia on “Naima,” it’s Locke’s vibes directing events, presenting a novel expression of Coltrane’s music while simultaneously honoring the original’s sound.
The two Moroni originals “Sister Something” and “Mr. Fournier” crackle with electricity, and show that Moroni is more than just a casual fan of Coltrane. His brief reference to A Love Supreme as “Naima” draws to close is yet another bit of evidence to the conscientious approach Moroni took to the project.
Just a real enjoyable album, and something a little different when it comes to Coltrane tribute albums.
Released on Via Veneto Jazz.
Jazz from Italy.
Available at: eMusic | Amazon MP3