Saxophonist Nat Birchall is a John Coltrane admirer whose quicker pieces tend to sound like Coltrane's famous account of My Favourite Things, and his ballads like the sax-guru's haunting tone poem Naima. Ancient World, the opening track of Sacred Dimension, has the My Favourite Things feel, with the leader's bittersweet soprano sax twisting over the thundering Elvin Jones-inspired drumming of Andy Hay and the rolling piano chords of Adam Fairhall. The poignant title track has a bird-call quality to the simple, two-note rising motif at the centre of its theme, and Birchall on tenor sax comes very close to Coltrane's majestic stillness over Hay's rumbling tom-toms. Some of the music has an exuberant, dancelike quality more evocative of pianist McCoy Tyner's music of the 1970s, which gives this album a more upbeat air. But upbeat or meditative, Birchall gets Coltrane's spiritual message at a deeper level than many among the multitudes to have pursued it.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3