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Reviews Olga Klebanovskaja

Few things warm up a cold winter day better than some great jazz. Picture spending an enchanting evening in the company of the Brian Melvin Quartet! Not only was this concert a celebration of Brian Melvin’s 65th birthday, but it also served as a heartfelt tribute to one of his greatest inspirations – the iconic figure of 20th -century jazz, John Coltrane.

Brian Melvin is a renowned figure in the international jazz scene, hailing from San Francisco. Having called Estonia home for over 23 years, he left an indelible mark on the global jazz landscape. As a celebrated drummer and percussionist, Melvin has graced stages worldwide – from the prestigious jazz clubs of New York to the grandeur of European concert halls. His connection with Jazzkaar runs deep, dating back 30 years to his debut in 1993. On that occasion, he shared the stage with American saxophonist Danny Walsh, as well as Estonian talents Tõnu Naissoo and Taavo Remmel.

John Coltrane stands as one of the most pivotal figures in jazz history, undoubtedly earning his place among the greatest jazz artists of all time. Widely recognized as one of the genre’s most influential musicians, Coltrane reshaped the parameters of jazz and played a key role in transforming American jazz music. His legacy endures through the ages, as his timeless compositions continue to resonate. Musicians like Brian Melvin, with their dedication and skill, ensure that the spirit of Coltrane’s music will live on eternally.

With Brian Melvin on drums, accompanied by Danish guitarist Søren Lee, Finnish pianist Samuli Mikkonen, and saxophonist Aleksander Paal, the quartet welcomed the audience at KUMU with Coltrane’s soulful ballad, ‘Welcome’. Musicians navigated gracefully through Coltrane’s classics, including ‘Resolution’ and ‘Naima’, a piece of music, named after Coltrane’s wife, Naima Grubbs. The audience was treated to renditions of several of Coltrane’s arrangements, such as ‘Summertime’ (1934), a reinterpretation of the George Gershwin song, and ‘I’ll Wait and Pray’ (1944), a masterpiece penned by George Treadwell.

As the quartet delved into ‘Impressions’, each member had their moment to shine with a solo, showcasing their individual artistry. Transitioning seamlessly, the ensemble moved into the improvisational segment—a gentle melody woven with calm rhythms. Brian Melvin captured the essence of improvisation well. He mentioned that nobody really knows where the sounds come from or where they will go. Melvin beautifully summed it up by saying, ‘And, of course, love is what it is all about.’ With those words, he started the first beats of Coltrane’s ‘Love’.

The evening, brimming with love, unfolded as the Brian Melvin quartet expressed their musical prowess through the timeless 20th-century masterpieces of John Coltrane. Without a doubt, the concert left no one untouched. A poignant example was a stranger seated next to me, who repeatedly exclaimed, ‘It’s amazing. I can’t sit still. Can I go and dance?’.


Brian Melvin Quartet ‘’Tribute to John Coltrane’’
1st of December 2023, 7 pm at KUMU auditorium

Brian Melvin – drums
Søren Lee – guitar
Samuli Mikkonen – piano
Aleksander Paal – saxophone