Marcus Roberts Trio, “Trio Crescent – Celebrating Coltrane” (J-Master Records)

reviews-marcusrobertsPianist Marcus Roberts, leading his longtime trio with bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis, revisits one of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane’s recording masterpieces, 1964’s Crescent. They perform the entirety of the album with the tunes appearing as they did on the release—“Crescent,” “Wise One,” “Bessie’s Blues,” “Lonnie’s Lament” and “The Drum Thing.” It concludes with the hard-jumpin’ “Traneing In.”

These compositions are familiar to numerous jazz fans and students and their strong, memorable melodies make them hummable for many. Roberts’ goal was to “re-imagine” this material in a saxophonist-less environment while capturing the essence of Trane. Not an easy task, yet the material itself laid the foundation for the trio to express the humanity that is central to these works. The talented musicians’ love and respect for Coltrane, other essential elements, are evident throughout.

Marsalis gets the first licks on the title cut, creating an edgy atmosphere and providing a drum roll for Roberts’ entrance. The pianist’s elegance speaks to the beauty of the tune that starts swinging under the direction of Jordan’s walking bass.

The swinging continues on the lively and lighthearted “Bessie’s Blues,” with Roberts staying true to the melody while adding his own, flawless flourishes. It emotionally stands in stark contrast to the sorrowful “Lonnie’s Lament,” with Marsalis’ shimmering cymbals recalling raindrops on a windowpane. As with Coltrane’s original work, the imagery is left to the listeners’ imagination.

Trio Crescent – Celebrating Coltrane truly succeeds in retaining the spirituality, beauty and pure energy that was—and is—John Coltrane.