Michael Mason

Visionary

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Stylistically, John Coltrane's work as a leader can be divided into three main periods: (1) his hard bop period of 1957-1959, (2) his modal/post-bop period of 1960-1964, and (3) his radical free jazz period of 1965-1967. Of course, the saxophone giant also had a long list of credits as a sideman, and that includes everything from his membership in a navy band in the '40s (when he was a Charlie Parker-ish alto player) to his work with Dizzy Gillespie in the early '50s (when he was a very Dexter Gordon-minded tenor man) to his association with Miles Davis from 1955-1960. Much like Davis, Coltrane wasn't one to rest on his laurels -- he maintained an obsessive desire to forge ahead, and anyone who pays tribute to Coltrane has a variety of styles to choose from. Recorded in 1993, Visionary is primarily a tribute to the saxman's modal period. Most of the pieces that flutist Michael Mason interprets on this CD are well-known gems that Coltrane originally recorded for Atlantic or Impulse! in the early '60s, and that includes "Equinox," "India," and "Impressions" as well as "Naima" and the peaceful "Central Park West." Visionary doesn't get into the scorching free jazz that Coltrane provided during the last few years of his life, and his pre-'60s hard bop only receives a little attention. Mason does tackle the title song of 1957's Blue Train, but he does so in a '60s-like fashion. Visionary is hardly the only Coltrane tribute that was recorded in the '90s, but it is among the more memorable. The very fact that Mason is a flutist makes things intriguing; the flute was hardly a top priority on Coltrane's albums, but it's an instrument that enables Mason to provide an unusual, fresh-sounding acknowledgment of the influential saxophonist.

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