©Brett Delmage, 2017
(l-r) Valeriy Nehovora, Marc Decho, and Michel Delage ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Tribute to John Coltrane's 91st birthday
Marc Decho and the Warp'tet
The Record Centre
Saturday, September 23, 2017 – 4 to 5 p.m.

Saxophonist John Coltrane played music which ranged from sweet and tender ballads, to fiery and visceral ensemble pieces. And it was this second, intense side to his musical personality which Marc Decho and the Warp'tet emphasized in their hour-long tribute show Saturday, to attentive listeners at the Record Centre.

It's been 50 years since Coltrane died, at the peak of his powers and far too young. Saturday would have been his 91st birthday. He was a pioneer in developing modal jazz and near the end of his life was stretching the boundaries with free jazz – and yet was also well-known for creating jazz standards out of unexpected material, like "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.

Decho brought together an interesting group of instruments for the show, played by experienced local jazz musicians – and deliberately chose a chordless (no guitar or piano) line-up. Vince Rimbach paid homage to Coltrane on tenor and soprano sax. Richard Page invoked Coltrane collaborator Eric Dolphy's harmonies on bass clarinet, and also played soprano sax duos with Rimbach. Decho himself added a strong groove and expansive solos on six-string electric bass.

And creating a propulsive foundation for the music were two drummers – Michel Delage on a small kit and Valeriy Nehovora on a large kit with huge bass drum – echoing how Coltrane also briefly played with two drummers in 1965: Rashied Ali and Elvin Jones. For one song (“Cousin Mary”), they switched kits, and played a compelling call-and-response drums duet partway through.

The pieces weren't from any one particular period, Decho said. He simply selected some of his favourites and arranged them for this group’s first time playing together. They ended up being primarily from later in Coltrane's career, plus two from Giant Steps.

The overall feel was loose, loud, and a bit chaotic – but also intense, driving, and celebratory. Rimbach and Page combined their horn lines well – creating music that could move easily from fast and circling to lean and sinuous. Rimbach's fluid and expressive tenor was counterpointed well by Page's deep and rippling bass clarinet lines. The two drummers not only kept the energy high, they also created interesting percussion sections, including a joint hard-edged drum intro to “Lonnie's Lament”. Decho's bass lines pulsated in “Equinox”, growled in “Resolution”, and were fast and vibrating in “Countdown”.

It was a more raw and less controlled performance than on some Coltrane albums – but not as discordant as some late Coltrane, and its high energy worked well in the steamy heat of that afternoon.

Decho told OttawaJazzScene.ca at the end of the show that he plans to continue this Coltrane project in November, when his group will play each Sunday evening at Irene's Pub in the Glebe as part of the pub's regular Sunday Sessions series.

Set List
(all tunes written by John Coltrane)

  • Resolution (from A Love Supreme, 1965)
  • Lonnie's Lament (from Crescent, 1964)
  • Equinox (from Coltrane's Sound, 1964)
  • Cousin Mary (from Giant Steps, 1960)
  • Countdown (from Giant Steps, 1960)

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Read other stories about John Coltrane by OttawaJazzScene.ca: