Criss Cross Jazz 1254 CD

Que Viva Coltrane

Bonded through their mutual love of John Coltrane's music, Conrad and Brian have produced a compilation of endearing proportions. Uniting two powerful forces – Trane's identifiable jazz masterpieces and the universal grid of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean rhythms– Que Viva Coltrane has been carefully and brilliantly translated with sensitivity towards the merger of these elements.

Many trips to Cuba have allowed me the privilege of hearing the influence American jazz artists have had on the musicians there. On many occasions local bands at dance venues opened their shows with fiery instrumental renditions of a Coltrane composition, fabulously executed with salsa and swing.

In terms of John Coltrane's exposure to Caribbean music, my mother, Alice, once stated that my father brought home a set of conga drums belonging to Cuban born Candido Camero. THe set stayed in our Long Island home for many years. There were also stories about other Cuban musicians and percussionists such as Chano Pozo and Mongo Santamaria.

The African drums, rhythms, chants, and ache (spiritual force) are components with John Coltrane connected with. Along with many other factors, this is a testament to his legacy as a spiritually-inclined innovator.

Disfruta la musica,
Michelle Coltrane Carbonell


"Que Viva Coltrane" – "Long Live Coltrane"

One aspect of jazz improvisation, as it progressed from it's earliest New Orleans roots to the Bebop innovations of the 1940's and '50's through the tumultuous upheavals of the 60's and beyond, is the movement towards more and more complexity in melody, harmony and rhythm. A primary goal of the modern (late 20th Century) jazz musician was to combine modal-chromatic melodic lines with asymmetrical, syncopated rhythmic phrasing to create increasingly complex improvised musical hybrids. This was the genius–and one of the fundamental innovations–of John Coltrane. Asymmetrical phrasing and playing "across the bar" became the standard mode of imporvisation at the "cutting edge" of the music.

Combining this modern jazz aesthetic with traditional Afro-Caribbean rhythmical structures can be a daunting task because clave, the fundamental Afro-Caribbean "rhythmic cell", is inherently symmetrical. An odd number of bars in an improvised phrase will put the jazz improviser "cruzado" (off clave). To stay in clave, the improvising musician has to justify the asymmetrical idea by either instantaneously intuiting his/her position within the rhythmic structure of by using space and waiting until the beginning of a subsequent 2-bar clave pattern. Sensitivity and sophistication are needed to improvise in clave.

Synthesizing the music of John Coltrane with Afro-Caribbean forms was a very organic process. When two types of music share a common source, their re-combination is revitalizing and makes the fusion sound fresh. African and Afro-Caribbean music is based on dance and community. The classic jazz of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, et al., was, first and foremost, dance music. Over time jazz lost some of its connection with dancers and became a listener's music, while salsa and Afro-Caribbean jazz musical styles maintained their relationship with the ancient African sacred dance traditions.

The concept of clave is an integral part of this tradition. We approached this project as an opportunity to explore John Coltrane's music in the context of clave and the classic musical forms of Africa, Cuba, and the Caribbean.


Lonnie's Lament envisions the possibilities of a musical encounter between John Coltrane and Tito Puente. Conceived as a Jazz Cha-Cha, this one showcases the flute. Mario Rivera (featured soloist for many years with Tito Puente) is on fire from the opening solo, and the sparks fly during Robby's closing drum statement while the band cooks to a sizzling conclusing. Jugoso y sabroso!! (CH)

Miles' Mode is the most complex arrangement on the CD and a tour de force for the ensemble. THe theme of "Miles' Mode" is based on a twelve tone row whose intervals form the perfect fourth and major second based melodic cells characteristic of middle-to late-period Coltrane. I've used these melodic cells in varied forms in all aspects of the arrangement, from the bass line to the mambo section riffs. Clave direction changes are employed to give variety and permit asymmetry (see above) in this chart. (BL)

Wise One was originally on the masterpiece Coltrane recording, "Crescent," Edsel Gomez's piano takes the lead role on the melody here, backed by the horns. As in the original, we double the tempo for the solos, finally fading to an eloquent Richie Flores conga solo before the theme returns. (BL)

Countdown's daunting changes are eaten up by John Benitez' electric bass up front. It's a real challenge to play over these harmonies and still stay in clave, but all the soloists rise to the occasion fluently and "con fuego". A fragment of the progression provides the basis for the montuno backing Richie's conga solo. The tag brings in a taste of 6/8 rhythm at the end. (BL)

Central Park West, a classic ballad, is treated here as a Yambu, with the melody re-harmonized using Coltrane's signature substitution chord changes. The flugelhorn takes the lead, with contrapuntal call and response from the trombone and bari sax. (CH)

Straight Street dates from Coltrane's first Prestige LP in 1958. Here it is recast in the Cuban rhythmic style known as danzon. A relaxed vibe reigns through all the solo statements on this wonderful song. (BL)

Locomotion, from the classic Blue Note LP "Blue Train," gives us all a chance to cut loose on the blues (blues with a bridge, to be exact). This was the final tune of the day, and we all let it out here. It's a testament to the skill and artistry of these great musicians that we were able to produce everything you hear here in one afternoon with no overdubbing– a real "live" date unheard of with such complex material. We all shook our heads in disbelief and triumph that we were able to pull it off. (BL)


John Coltrane is a truly transcendental creative entity whose spirit lives in the hearts and the minds of musicians and music lovers all over the world. He created a new musical language based on the transfiguration of traditional African-American improvisational forms, and he went on to experiment with the grafting of Afro-Word (African, Afro-Cuban, AFro-Caribbean, Afro-Brazilian) influences, as well as assimilating the technical innovations of modern 20th Century Classical music. Coltrane was a supreme communicator who touched people's souls with the purity and strength of his musical intent, and his socially conscious message resonates with the themes of peace and love for all living things and a hope for a better future.

We humbly submit this music and dedicate it to John Coltrane and the Coltrane family.

Conrad Herwig & Brian Lynch