Ben van den Dungen Quartet: Live At Lux & Tivoli

Dutch saxophonist wants to talk about Coltrane, and does so with conviction and invention on seven tunes the maestro made famous

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This is Dutch saxophonist Ben van den Dungen’s fourth album with his quartet. It was recorded live during an extensive tour in the Netherlands. The quality of sound is excellent. 

Van den Dungen has always been inspired by John Coltrane and says the album reflects a desire to dive deeper into his music. In his own words, the album captures the essence of jazz – i.e. music created in the moment. All seven tracks are Coltrane classics. Five were composed by him; one is by Billy Eckstine and one, a combination of Afro Blue and The Inch Worm, is by Mongo Santamaria and Frank Loesser respectively.

The album opens with Like Sonny, which was purportedly based on a segment of a Sonny Rollins solo. Released on Coltrane Jazz in 1961, it’s an early example of Coltrane’s interest in Latin and African jazz. Have a listen to van den Dungen adding his own twist to the number here.

The splendid ballad from Coltrane’s 1963 Impressions album, After The Rain, has contemplative piano from Miguel Rodriguez and eloquent soprano from van den Dungen. Moment’s Notice from Blue Train in 1957 is fast-moving with van den Dungen on tenor and Rodriguez nimble on piano. It’s followed by Eckstine’s melodic composition, I Want To Talk About You, recorded by Coltrane in 1958 on Soultrane. The joint Afro Blue / Inch Worm piece is from the corresponding albums Afro Blue Impressions (1963) and Coltrane (1962) and has van den Dungen back on soprano.

Wise One from Coltrane’s 1964 Crescent album sees van den Dungen supreme on tenor. He returns to soprano for the album’s closing number, Mr Syms, composed by Coltrane in memory of his hairdresser and released on Coltrane Plays The Blues in 1962.

These top-class musicians manage to deliver Coltrane’s repertoire in the spirit that was intended but at the same time inject their own take on the music. Superb.

Discography
Like Sonny; After The Rain; Moments Notice; I Want To Talk About You; Afro Blue / The Inch Worm; Wise One; Mr Syms (46.26)
Van den Dungen (ts, ss); Miguel Rodriguez (p); Marius Beets (b); Eric Ineke (d, tracks 1-5); Gijs Dijkhuizen (d, tracks 6-7). Utrecht, 2 February 2020 & Nijmegen, 29 November 2020.
JWA Records