Down Beat (p.50) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's clear her heart is in the work."
Personnel: Jessica Williams (piano); Mel Brown (drums).
Liner Note Author: Jessica Williams .
Recording information: JW Sound Studios, Monterey, CA (12/2007).
John Coltrane tributes are not hard to find in the jazz world, and different tributes will celebrate different periods of the saxophone innovator's career. Some tributes pay homage to Coltrane's hard bop period (as in "Giant Steps," "Moment's Notice," and "Lazy Bird"), others pay homage to his modal post-bop period of roughly 1960-1964, and some pay homage to his radically avant-garde free jazz period of 1965-1967 (the last few years of his life). Jessica Williams' Freedom Trane, it turns out, is essentially a tribute to modal post-bop Coltrane on Atlantic and Impulse, and the acoustic pianist leads an intimate trio that employs Dave Captein on upright bass and Mel Brown on drums. The thing that separates Freedom Trane from many of the other tributes to modal post-bop Coltrane is the fact that Williams offers a combination of familiar Coltrane compositions and original material. She puts a piano-trio spin on the Coltrane pieces "Naima," "Lonnie's Lament," and "Welcome," but she also plays four original compositions that are mindful of Coltrane's modal period -- "The Seeker," "Just Words," "Prayer and Meditation," and the title track -- and she demonstrates that a session can be Coltrane-minded even without the presence of a saxophonist. That said, Williams never allows her own personality to become obscured on Freedom Trane; this 2007 date always sounds like a Jessica Williams project even though she is fondly remembering the contributions of an iconic jazz master. And one of the ways in which Williams fondly remembers Coltrane is by celebrating the spiritual aspects of his playing and composing. It's no secret that Coltrane was greatly influenced by eastern religion in the '60s; Williams is obviously well aware of that fact, and in the CD's liner notes, she writes, "Right now, John's beautiful album, A Love Supreme (on Impulse), is on my CD player. I've lit a few candles and am burning some incense." And that imagery from Williams really speaks volumes about the way she identifies with Coltrane's spirituality on Freedom Trane, which finds the pianist in consistently excellent form. ~ Alex Henderson