Nels Cline & Gregg Bendian: Venus
Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music of John Coltrane (Atavistic ALP102CD)
Composed by John Coltrane.
Recorded: West Hollywood, CA, April 6, 1998
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Some folks might think it takes a lot of guts to brave the mountain that is Coltrane's Interstellar Space. Maybe so. Perhaps even more ballsy is the idea that an electric guitar might be a suitable replacement for Trane's wall-of-sound horn. You may detect in these statements a whiff of hyperbole, but remember that Coltrane's album really drew a line in the sand with his followers, the idea being that perhaps the great Trane had gone completely off track and was just tossing incomprehensible statements to the wind.
As it turns out, Coltrane and Rashied Ali knew exactly what they were doing ... and so do Nels Cline and Gregg Bendian. With "Venus," they catch one of the few pensive Interstellar segments. Even though both players remain in constant and edgy motion (particularly Bendian), the melodies sketched out early have a searching quality that becomes increasingly anxious and fiery as momentum builds. Just when you're certain that an explosion is imminent, Cline dials it back to mere fragments and Bendian takes over the heavy lifting, doing some amazing things with just cymbals and snare. This take on Trane's latter-career classic might lean more heavily on the space (as in spacey), but it certainly remains true to Coltrane's spirit.
Reviewer: Mark Saleski