Steve Heckman

With John in Mind

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Steve Heckman has chosen a homage to John Coltrane as the theme for his debut album -- a decision that by itself indicates that Heckman is willing to take a chance. Putting oneself on the line to be matched with one of the major gods of jazz is surely leading with one's professional chin. Heckman comports himself well, and the results of this endeavor are favorable. There is more than one Coltrane period to choose from. Heckman avoids the searing sheets of sound, but comes close on the aptly titled "Eye of the Beast," as he remains more with the hard bop, exotic, and melodic elements of Coltrane's music. He engages in lightening-fast chord progressions, such as on "With John in Mind," a nine-minute extravaganza of dazzling tenor playing. Mathew Clark displays Bud Powell roots with some solo piano work. Meditative aspects of Coltrane's playing are expressed through the soprano saxophone on "I Am Not Your Fantasy." A nod in the direction of Coltrane's distinctive way with a ballad is made on the tenor saxophone anthem "Body and Soul." Heckman throws a curve by picking up the baritone saxophone on a couple of cuts, a member of the sax family Coltrane didn't play. He shows his mastery over the big horn on "Everything Happens to Me" with some impressive improvising. Credit goes to Heckman for paying homage without resorting to mimicking or trying to duplicate some of Coltrane's well-known solos. Heckman's tone also doesn't match that biting inflection that was instantly recognizable no matter what kind of music Coltrane was playing. What Heckman does reveal are a style and sound which stand on their own and portend good things in the future.

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