On The Turntable: Alice Coltrane May 01 2017
The transcendent music of Alice Coltrane resonates deeper with each passing year. Through impressive releases on the Impulse! label in the late '60s and '70s, Coltrane has become one of the key figures in spiritually-aligned jazz. Even ten years after her death in 2007, Alice's legacy has retained its vital life-force largely because her music is informed by an elusive devotional mystique, which only grew stronger when the pianist/harpist retired to her Ashram outside of Los Angeles in the late '70s.
Luaka Bop's new series World Spirituality Classics focuses on this later period of Coltrane's work. The first title in the series – culled from cassettes recorded between 1982 and 1995 and originally only sold direct through the Ashram – immerses the listener instantly in the communal vibe mid-ritual. Ever-quickening clouds of jubilant group chants, hand-claps and warm synthesizers gradually unfold into Vedic hymns and soulful harmonies.
The real revelation here is Alice's solo voice, as this is the first time that she sings in her recorded catalogue. Coltrane's hypnotic vocalizations are at once understated and held back, yet insistent and passionate. While mostly featuring later compositions, the record also includes an incredible revisiting of her best known piece, "Journey In Satchidananda," which starts off as a long processional and slowly opens up into a beautifully sonorous chorus.
Alice Coltrane's music is steeped in both gospel and Hindu traditions, but transmitted as if beamed from outer space. Ecstatic music, indeed.