Saturday, August 19, 2017

Roland Kirk - 1969 - Left & Right

Roland Kirk 
Left & Right

01. Black Mystery Has Been Revealed
02. Expansions
a. Kirkquest
b. Kingus Mingus
c. Celestialness
d. A Dream of Beauty Reincarnated
e. Frisco Vibrations
f. Classical Jazzical
g. Ellington Psalms
h. Haynes' Brain's Sayin's
i. What's Next-Overture
03. Lady's Blues
04. IX Love
05. Hot Cha
06. Quintessence
07. I Waited For You
08. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing

Bass – Vernon Martin
Bassoon – Daniel Jones
Celesta – Roland Kirk
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Flute – Roland Kirk
Harp – Alice Coltrane
Horns [Manzello] – Roland Kirk
Horns [Stritch] – Roland Kirk
Narrator – Roland Kirk
Percussion – Gerald Brown, Warren Smith
Piano – Ron Burton
Piano [Thumb] – Roland Kirk
Saxophone – Pepper Adams, Roland Kirk
Trombone – Benny Powell, Dick Griffin
Trumpet – Richard Williams

The title of this album, Left and Right, no doubt refers to the sides of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's brain, which were both heavily taxed in the composing, arranging, conducting, and playing of this recording. For starters, the band is huge -- 17 players plus a 16-piece string section, all of it arranged and conducted by Kirk, a blind man. None of this would matter a damn if this weren't such a badass platter. Along with Kirk's usual crew of Ron Burton, Julius Watkins, Dick Griffin, Jimmy Hopps, and Gerald Brown, there are luminaries in the crowd including Alice Coltrane on harp, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, and no less than Roy Haynes helping out on the skins. What it all means is this: The man who surprised and outraged everybody on the scene -- as well as blew most away -- was at it again here in "Expansions," his wildly ambitious and swinging post-Coltrane suite, which has "Black Mystery Has Been Revealed" as its prelude. While there are other tracks on this record, this suite is its centerpiece and masterpiece -- despite killer readings of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and "Quintessence." "Expansions" has Kirk putting his entire harmonic range on display, and all of the timbral extensions he used in his own playing are charted for a string section to articulate. There are subtleties, of course, which come off as merely tonal variations in extant harmony with the other instruments, but when they are juxtaposed against a portrayal of the entire history of jazz -- from Jelly Roll Morton to the present day -- then they become something else: the storytellers, the timbres, and the chromatic extensions that point in the right direction and get listeners to stop in the right places. This is an extreme for Rahsaan -- extremely brilliant and thoroughly accessible.

The 20 minute "Expansions" is like a jazz history lesson wrapped up into one tight little package. Listening to it - and to this album as a whole - leaves little doubt in my mind that Kirk could do just about anything, jazz-wise. Like a lot of Kirk records he's showing off an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and an ability to use it for his own means rather than to create some rote reproduction. Note that in "Expansions" Kirk and Ron Burton (piano) (plus other folks playing instruments that stand out less) offer up blues, bebop, stride piano, swing, and of course Kirk's own unique brand of the music all strung into something too fluid to be called a suite, as though it were differing pieces grafted together, but feeling more like stream of consciousness writing while retaining the feel of moving with a purpose and never rambling. But that's not all this offers. Side two, or the second half as it was known in the CD age, offers a Kirk-with-strings session where Rahsaan finds the perfect balance between sentiment and surrealism - a flute excursion where his tone, without going overboard and destroying the gentle beauty of the number, cuts through the strings like a serrated knife; a gorgeous dedication to Billie Holiday in "Lady's Blues"; elsewhere a lovely take on "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" where you'd never doubt his passion and also never mistake him for Johnny Hodges; etc. Main horn plus strings is rarely a recipe for music I love, but Kirk, as always, does things like nobody else and makes it work beautifully. A really fine one overall.

McCoy Tyner - 1972 - Extensions

McCoy Tyner 

01. Message From The Nile 12:10
02. The Wanderer 7:35
03. Survival Blues 13:02
04. His Blessings 6:41

Acoustic Bass – Ron Carter
Alto Saxophone – Gary Bartz
Drums – Elvin Jones
Harp – Alice Coltrane
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Wayne Shorter

Recorded on February 9, 1970.

Languishing off-catalogue for many years, McCoy Tyner's Extensions may be the pianist's most unjustly neglected album. Strange days, for not only is the music ineffably vibrant, but Extensions is the only recording ever to feature Tyner alongside pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane, who replaced him in saxophonist John Coltrane's group in 1966. The album has one foot in the echoes of John Coltrane's "classic quartet," of which Tyner was a member from 1960-65, and the other in the astral jazz style which Alice Coltrane and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders fashioned in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

After quitting John Coltrane, Tyner moved to Blue Note Records, before signing with Milestone in 1972, where he became a major draw through the decade and into the early 1980s. Extensions was the sixth of seven LPs he made for Blue Note between 1967 and 1970. These include the acclaimed The Real McCoy (1967), one the last albums to be produced by the label's founder, Alfred Lion, before ill-health led to his retirement, and Time For Tyner (1968), and also Asante (1970), another relatively uncelebrated work, which has pronounced stylistic links with Extensions. 

The lineup for Extensions included The Real McCoy's drum and bass team of Elvin Jones and Ron Carter, but replaced tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson with Wayne Shorter, on tenor and soprano, and Gary Bartz, on alto. Alice Coltrane is featured on harp on three of Extensions' four tracks: "Message From The Nile," "Survival Blues" and "His Blessings." The first of these has a playing time of 12:21 minutes, the second 13:15, and they are the joint cornerstones of the disc, respectively opening side one and side two of the original LP. 

Extensions looks ahead to the global-cultural inclusiveness of Tyner's work for Milestone in the mid and late 1970s, itself an important part of the astral jazz aesthetic. But although the album includes some of that style's signature elements, it does not wholly embrace it. The reasons were likely as much philosophical as musical. 

As a devout Muslim, Tyner would have had little time for astral jazz's pantheism, and presumably even less for the psychedelics used by some of its practitioners. But he had long been drawn to African music, another astral signature, telling interviewer Frank Kofsky in 1966 that Africa was where he looked for inspiration (see Kofsky's Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music, Pathfinder Press, 1970). With Elvin Jones in the band, Tyner, like John Coltrane before him, had a direct line to African music's rhythmic legacy, and with Alice Coltrane, he had one of astral jazz's most influential artists on board too. 

Extensions, then, is astral jazz without the bells, reefer, acid and incense. The opening track, "Message From The Nile" (the title could have come straight off a contemporaneous Pharoah Sanders or Alice Coltrane Impulse! album), opens with Coltrane's sweeping harp glissandos before settling into a steady, West African-derived groove supported by an earthy bass ostinato. There are soaring, lyrical solos from Tyner, Wayne Shorter, on vocalized tenor, and Coltrane. 

"The Wanderer," which follows, is medium-fast hard bop and more closely in "classic quartet" territory. It is a restless, questing performance, which moves into free rhythm and outer edge harmonics, with solos from Tyner, both saxophonists and Jones. 

The final two tracks, the medium-fast "Survival Blues," which also edges into atonality, and "His Blessings," a peaceful modal ballad, take us back into the mystic. Coltrane colors both tracks, and solos on "His Blessings." And someone, possibly Coltrane, is heard on bells behind Carter's solo on "Survival Blues." Like "Message From The Nile," both tracks are gorgeous. 

Talk about a song that builds up!  "Message from the Nile":  Carter hits a few simple notes, Alice Coltrane enters on harp, Elvin Jones comes in with typically of kilter drumming, followed by Tyner on the ivory, then a minute and a half into it both Wayne Shorter and Gary Bartz burst in on sax at the same time.  Tyner gets first solo rights, making it clear why he's such a huge influence on modern keyboardists.  Then?  Wayne Shorter blows the studio door off its hinges with a soprano sax solo.  Gary Bartz cools things down with a fast yet smooth alto sax solo.  John Coltrane's wife, Alice, is next with a sweeping harp statement that makes you want to learn how to play that instrument, or at least hear it more often.  Elvin Jones and Ron Carter, who've worked together many times before, just kind of chill, set and absorb the spiritual groove.  It's a great way to spend 12 minutes.  "The Wanderer" is a madly paced bop tune, highlighted by a drum solo which had been preceeded by 5 minutes of fast drumming.  I have no idea how Elvin Jones managed to keep his arms moving throughout the song.  "Survival Blues" starts out with plain sick Blues piano, unnaturally flowing from Tyner's fingers.  This song is a romp.  Ron Carter finally gets to solo and somebody is jingling sleigh bells in the background during his spotlight. HAHAHA.  They continue to do so for a while afterwards, so it must have been planned.  It's still funny though.  Jones makes a brief crashing solo, then Alice Coltrane reminds you of her harp again and provides a spooky finish to the the song.  That leads perfectly into her opening for the grand finale "His Blessings".  What can I say about this track?  It's layer upon layer of beauty.   Ron Carter uses a bow on his bass.  You really have to listen to Extensions with headphones.  It's like the perfect animal:  beautiful, and when it needs to be, powerful and swift.  I only wish it would multiply.

Alice Coltrane - 1978 - Transfiguration

Alice Coltrane 

01. Transfiguration 11:43
02. Spoken Introduction & One For The Father 7:25
03. Prema 9:16
04. Affinity 10:50
05. Krishnaya 3:21
06. Leo, Part One 16:35
07. Leo, Part Two 20:10

Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums – Roy Haynes
Piano, Organ – Alice Coltrane

On track 3:
Cello – Christina King, Ray Kelley
Viola – Janice Ford, Pamela Goldsmith
Violin – Jay Rosen, Murray Adler, Noel Pointer, Sherwyn Hirbod, Michelle Sita Coltrane

Recorded in performance at Schoenberg Hall, UCLA, April 16, 1978. Strings on track 3 recorded at Westlake Audio, Los Angeles.

Following the death of her husband in '67, Alice Coltrane steadily recorded an album a year up until Transfiguration in 1978, a live session which consequently represents the culmination of her spiritual music via recordings and, for the most part, public appearances as well. After her first seven sessions through the late ‘60s and early '70s for Impulse!, Ms. Coltrane began recording for Warner in '75 around the time she founded a center for Eastern religious studies.
The apex of that handful of sessions, Transfiguration features John Coltrane associates, bassist Reggie Workman (who appears on an earlier session, World Galaxy) and Roy Haynes on drums. "No finer people to let you feel what this force is really about," the leader matter of factly states in her introductions.

The recording revisits many of her intense spiri-tual music sentiments via densely rhythmic, textural, and colorful modal work. Her Detroit church organist experience is on full display from the beginning. If she performed at this level in her church back in the '50s, it certainly would have appropriately foreshadowed perhaps the hippest of churches, the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco that speaks to a higher consciousness through the music and spirit of Trane himself. The title track finds the leader's modal morning-raga single notes complemented by Haynes' marvelous cymbal work and percussive chimes and bells, and Workman's appropriately moody arco bass. The three flow together with resonating bass plucks inciting snare and machine-gun drum rolls. Ms. Coltrane then hits a personal groove reminiscent of latter-day John Coltrane just over halfway into the piece with legato effects initiating a relentless Haynes' swing. Moving over to the acoustic piano for "One For The Father” (dedicated to John Coltrane), she beautifully performs an interesting twist on the spiri-tual "Go Down Moses". An entrancing and momentum -building nine-member string section, featuring the late violinist Noel Pointer, complements her harp treatment of the piano during another original, "Prema".

The hymnal opening of the near 40-minute two-part "Leo" suite, in a blink, morphs into a bundle of sheer raw force. Relentlessly conjuring up meters and rhythms without hesitation, the trio collectively works to fill all potential spaces of rest. An unfortunately faded out unaccompanied bass solo (as was the case with the original vinyl) leads into the second part of "Leo" finding Haynes as nonpareil soloist. You can't help but wonder why he has gone unrecorded as an unaccompanied percussionist to this very day. As one of the living masters, Haynes has played in most possible surroundings with a who's-who of jazz histo-ry. Alice Coltrane reenters, her frenetic organ playing and sound sheets of momentum recalling Cecil Taylor and more recently guitarist Dom Minasi. Working the organ again like a harp in her hands, from top to bot-tom and not a key untouched or underutilized, the mountain of momentum naturally spills into the finale, washing ashore into thunderous applause.

Alice Coltrane never had an easy time of it with critics. That she was able to pursue her rugged musical vision in the midst of controversy (many claimed she was "the Yoko Ono of the John Coltrane Quartet," in that she replaced McCoy Tyner when Trane decided to shift the focus of his band) is, in retrospect, a heroic act, though, humble as she is, she would never see it that way. This double-LP live set recorded at UCLA in 1978, reveals in total the ambitious and profound free jazz and universal musical frontiers Ms. Coltrane was able to explore in both small and larger groups. The lion's share of the music here features her in a trio setting with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Roy Haynes. Ms. Coltrane performs on piano and organ. The opening moments of the title track, which opens the album, offer the careening subjectivity through the whole-tone improvisation that Alice Coltrane made her own. Certainly there is the influence of her late husband here, but her sense of phraseological articulation and accent is far different. She moves with one hand over a difficult series of arpeggiattic concerns, creating a strong harmonic line for Workman and Haynes to develop into a rhythmic construct. When a standard modal interlude develops in the rhythm section, Coltrane stretches it to its breaking point until a new one must be developed; it's nothing less than breathtaking. But expectation is thwarted when Coltrane plays a piano solo on "One for the Father," where the depth dynamics of Shostakovich meet the strident harmonic vistas of Stravinsky and Messiaen and engage the profound spiritual emotionalism of gospel music in a seven-minute piece that is so moving, it would seem that the set should end there. But there is so much more. On "Prema," another solo piano piece which opens an Eastern drone in a near-impressionistic (à la Debussy) manner was later overdubbed with a string section, adding more dimension to the droning, whole tones that lie at its root. When the work shifts into a section that reflects transcendence, the dynamic is actually quieter and more lush and reflective than in the music's searching passages. Finally, after two more selections, the concert's finale begins, a 37-minute read of John Coltrane's "Leo." Ms. Coltrane and her band begin slowly to articulate a system devised by John, where all 12 tones were related to the 12 signs of the zodiac. Alice Coltrane's organ soloing here is very much in the angular shifting, shaping, and contouring that her husband's soprano playing had. It articulates a phrase repeatedly until every ounce of emotion and spirit have been wrung from it and then dives straight into the next. The interplay between Workman and Haynes was so telepathic, it pushed Ms. Coltrane into new realms further inside these shimmering harmonics until their shards gave way to a series of symbols and meanings that opened onto new vistas in tonal metalinguistic post-tonalism. It's an exhausting work, but one that leaves the listener in a state of near disbelief at what just transpired. If you can only own one Alice Coltrane record, this should be it.

Alice Coltrane - 1977 - Transcendence

Alice Coltrane 

01. Radhe-Shyam 7:22
02. Vrindavana Sanchara 4:03
03. Transcendence 5:56
04. Sivaya 4:48
05. Ghana Nila 6:26
06. Bhaja Govindam 4:33
07. Sri Nrsimha 4:55

Cello – Fred Seykora
Harp, Harp [Tambou], Wind Chimes, Organ, Piano [Fender And Rhodes] – Alice Coltrane
Mridangam – Jagajivana Dasa, Mukunda Dasa
Viola – Pamela Goldsmith
Violin [First] – Murray Adler
Violin [Second] – Jay Rosen
Vocals, Other [Karatales] – Purushattama Hickson
Vocals, Percussion [Hand] – Brahmajyoti Lee, Saieshwar Roberts, Shankari Adams

Like many of the recordings from her Warner Bros. period, Transcendence, a late album, is an album created from various notions Alice Coltrane was exploring, rather than conceived as an album like her Impulse material was. The eight tracks that make up the disc are all based in Indian themes and spiritual concerns. As such, the instrumentation varies widely across the album, ranging from Ms. Coltrane playing her harp with a string quartet on the stunningly beautiful "Radhe-Shyam" and the title track to her playing organ and/or Fender Rhodes piano with large groups of Indian musicians (some of whom sing), such as on "Sivaya" or "Ghana Nila." The upshot is that the ambition here is not so much a grand musical one as it is an intensely focused spiritual one, as it is based upon a sacred Vedic text. As such, it makes for a challenging but thoroughly engaging listen, wherein moods, modes, ambiences, and densities are offered as meditative spaces for the listener -- check out the gentle yet blessed-out joy in "Vrindavana Sanchara," a solo track where Coltrane plays harp, tamboura, wind chimes, and a tambourine. As such it sets up the title track, which is more complex and more angular, yet still somehow has no edges, where the string quartet returns and creates a series of subtle modes where tonal expressions are held against and pulled through a cadence of minor and diminished seventh articulations built upon a harmonic figure of eights. The effect leaves dissonance as mere sense impression and offers instead a vertigo effect of moving deeper and deeper into something that cannot be identified. On "Ghana Nila," Coltrane and her Indian counterparts get downright funky in chanting the names of the Lord. Using a Fender Rhodes, Coltrane creates a Southern gospel groove with Eastern modalities, and she and a chorus begin chanting in a cadence that suggests a Pentecostal Church meeting the Krishna dharma. This track -- and the others that feature this lineup -- keeps the experience of the transcendent rooted in common communal experience, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to sing about God with a shimmering, funky groove for accompaniment. Ever-forward, brave, and truly visionary, Transcendence is another chapter in a body of work by Ms. Coltrane that may only in the 21st century get the understating and critical acclaim it truly deserves. More importantly, it seems that it may actually be instructive to an entirely new generation of musicians -- a love supreme indeed.

Alice Coltrane - 1976 - Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana

Alice Coltrane 
Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana

01. Govinda Jai Jai 5:44
02. Ganesha 2:42
03. Prema Muditha 4:32
04. Hare Krishna 5:53
05. Om Namah Sivaya 18:59

Fender Rhodes, Harp, Organ, Piano, Percussion — Alice Coltrane
Drums — Arjuna John Coltrane Jr.
Tambura — Michaelle Sita Coltrane
Handclapping, Percussion, Vocals — Sarada Devi,  Purushattama Hickson, Jagadaya, Sarasvati King, Shanti Kuronen, Brahmajyote Lee, Shankari Mahashakti,

This is not Alice Coltrane as you're used to, this is some sort of spiritual offering that bears no relation to the kind of music she has created previously.  Where as you're normally used to haunting, beautiful melodies and free explorations, this is just an album of chants and mantras that bear no real relation to jazz at all.

Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana was issued in the mid-'70s by Warner Bros. Forgoing jazz altogether, this set is a series of devotional songs from the Hindu religion that Alice Coltrane practiced. Three of the tracks here are chants, with Coltrane backing a vocal chorus on Fender Rhodes and organ. They are memorable, catchy, and moving given the near ecstatic joy of the singers. The other two tracks here feature Coltrane's interpretations of Indian songs. On "Ganesha," she plays harp and is accompanied only by Sita Coltrane on tamboura. This is not jazz, but it is engaging, utterly compelling music, particularly notable for Alice's juxtaposition of space against melody. "Om Nama Sivaya" is the album's closer, and at 19 minutes is over half the album's length. Here is where the great jazz musician shows her face. Playing Wurlitzer organ, Alice is backed only by John Coltrane Jr. on drums. She improvises against a traditional Indian mode and stretches it until it turns back on itself, breaks, moves into other modalities of harmonic invention, and rebuilds toward another peak. It's driving, with a circular rhythm and a melody that reveals itself briefly at odd junctures; it offers a treasure trove of great soloing. This album, was all but ignored upon release. If reviewed at all, it was (usually) with undeserved male chauvinist scorn. Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana is deeply satyisfying musically--provided one isn't seeking a restrictive from of jazz. This is music of a deepy individual nature, wholly original as all Alice Coltrane's works are, complete in its resonant emotionally and spiritually.

Alice Coltrane - 1976 - Eternity

Alice Coltrane

01. Spiritual Eternal 2:55
02. Wisdom Eye 3:07
03. Los Caballos 11:22
04. Om Supreme 9:33
05. Morning Worship 3:30
06. Spring Rounds 5:59

Harp, Organ, Piano, Fender Rhodes, Tambourine — Alice Coltrane
Violin — Murray Adler, Nathan Kaproff, Gordon Marron,
Sid Sharp, Polly Sweeney
Viola — Rollice Dale, Pamela Goldsmith, Mike Nowack
Vocals — Edward Cansino, Deborah Coomer, Susan Judy,Jean Packer
Cello — Anne Goodman, Ray Kelly, Jaqueline Lustgarten
Trombone — George Bohanon, Charles Loper
Trumpet — Oscar Brashear, Paul Hubinon
French Horn — Vincent DeRosa, Arthur Maebe, Alan Robinson,Marilyn Robinson
Bassoon — Donald Christlieb, Jack Marsh
Contrabassoon — Jo Ann Caldwell
Oboe — John MacArthur Ellis
Bass — Charlie Haden
Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone — Terry Harrington, Jackie Kelso
Tuba — Tommy Johnson
Flute — Hubert Laws
Piccolo — Louise di Tullo
Bass Clarinet — Julian Spear
English Horn — Ernie Watts
Alto Flute, Soprano Saxophone — Jerome Richardson
Drums, Gong — Ben Riley
Congas — Armando Peraza

The discography of Alice Coltrane was one seldom explored when released, and it remains that way today. I attribute this to the widow of the inimitable of John Coltrane‘s inability to contain her talent. In a music world where output is confined to categories, Alice Coltrane continually released music that could not be described by a single genre tag. While on the one hand, it only makes her work all the more exciting and worthwhile to people like me, it was understandably difficult to market. The base for her sound was rooted in the already obscure Spiritual/Avant-Garde Jazz which, although great, was never the most popular style of music. After years of recording for the one label she might have fit in at, Impluse! Records (“the house that Trane built”), and even with every factor working against her in gaining general acclaim, somehow Warner Brothers Records signed on to release her 1975 effort, the result being the timeless “Eternity.”

Not too far into the album does one realize Alice Coltrane’s uniqueness. “Eternity” opens with her swirling and weird distorted Wurlitzer Organ that never would have flown in the mainstream. Of course, I say this not to take anything away from her as the commonly held estimation is not something that changes what I hear in music. This opening tune is entitled “Spiritual Eternal” and also makes use of one of her best talents aside from soloing on organ, harp or piano, that being her training in arrangement. On the opening cut, her organ comes to be backed by an extraordinarily lush R&B/Classical hybrid arrangement. The title of this track (“Spiritual Eternal”) is very fitting. Everything Alice Coltrane did had a spiritual feeling to it. While the album is principally instrumental, there is a strong presence of a strong meaning to the music. Never more so is this true than on the lone song containing vocals, in fact is Coltrane’s first to do so, “Om Supreme.” The song has a three-minute-long introduction with Coltrane playing a Fender Rhodes without accompaniment. When the difficult to decipher vocals come in, you cannot help but try to determine the meaning of this singing with either is in a strange dialect or complete non-sense. Either way “Om Supreme” has to be one of the most beautiful songs composed, and it’s hard to believe that its carried out with one electric piano and a chorus of singers. The eclectic mix of music on “Eternity” is added to by “Los Caballos”, a straight-forward funk piece with some Latin percussion backing Coltrane’s droning organ, and last but not least the classical masterpiece “Spring Rounds from Rite of Spring” which is Coltrane’s interpretation of Igor Stravinsky “The Rite of Spring.”

In a world of uniformity, Alice Coltrane stood out easily as an individual while keeping her integrity as a well trained and talented musician. Although it is not always the case, I think that studying music to the extent Coltrane had hurts one’s ability as they are always so focused on the right way of playing, and not playing with real passion. This is clearly not the case for Alice Coltrane, who, after years of classical training, notably alongside classmate, fellow harpist and spiritual jazz artist, Dorothy Ashby, she never learned any rules and her foundation did not tame her sheer talent in any way. “Eternity,” being her best album in my judgment, is a great chance to experience an eclectic voyage and the spiritual trip that all of Alice Coltrane’s music brings.

Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane - 1974 - The Elements

Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane 
The Elements

01. Fire 11:07
02. Air 9:53
03. Water 7:33
04. Earth 13:15

Bass – Charlie Haden
Congas, Bells, Gong, Talking Drum, Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Drums – Ndugu (Leon Chancler) (tracks: A1, B2)
Flute [Wood] – Kenneth Nash (tracks: B1)
Piano, Harp, Tambura [Tamboura], Harmonium – Alice Coltrane
Tabla, Percussion – Baba Duru Oshun
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Flute [Alto] – Joe Henderson
Violin – Michael White (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Narrator – Kenneth Nash (tracks: B2)

Recorded at Village Recorders, Los Angeles, Ca., on October 15, 16, 17, 1973
Remixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca.

“The Elements” is a conceptual jazz album – yes it’s not a Prog Rock exclusive – based on the four elements Zodiac signs and the Universe as the Ancients saw it is based upon; Henderson goes transcendental, mystic, spiritual or tribal and he does it with total commitment and belief. He sought further “illumination” inviting [Artiist4353] as his harmonic partner plus double bass giant Charlie Haden and percussionists Kenneth Nash and Baba Daru Oshun as permanent participants; violin player Michael White is featured on three tracks and drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler on two. 

“Fire” builds up on an infectious Afro Funky bass riff, multiple percussions and a sensitive Ngudu soon joining the groove; the sax punctuates and adds blistering flights against open piano voicings; overdubbed flutes beef up the sound before White’s violin enters with a speech that reminisces Jean-Luc Ponty’s Free jazz era, and when the sax returns Alice C switches to harp, 1st with wide sweeping arpeggios, then with a solo that evokes the African kora; the relentless drive fades to leave Haden on his own with bells, percussions and drums before the theme briefly resumes with an ensemble ending. 

“Air” and “Water” feature no drums; on the former Henderson initially builds upon Haden Free-tempo bass excursions as piano and percussions sprinkle the background; piano and violin join in and their triple mingling statements vary between wild and aggressive or lyrical and passionate, while the latter bathes in an Eastern vibe, via a tamboura drone; weird sax effects acoustic or electronic processed and a melodic explosion of cascading phrases and rhythmic patterns soar upon sparse bass chords and the violin which joins the droning effect. 

“Earth” gets back to rhythm after a tablas intro; upon a syncopated slow bass pattern and a tamboura drone, sax and violin weave joint Afro/Eastern melodies as Ngudu punctuates the entrancing groove; Haden as a solo spot and he makes his bass behave like a lute slowly joined by the drone and discreet percussions; when harp and flute join in the contemplative mood a spoken narration highlights its spiritualness. But soon drums and bass reinstall the rhythm and violin and sax recreate the initial theme. 

Perhaps because he choose a “palpable” theme to inspire this work, Henderson managed to stay away from the often painful Free excursions that marked the era; tortuous but melodic, tormented but soulful, this is a work that both points towards new directions and is highly entertaining, and simultaneously elevates Henderson to the small club of the true sax giants for whom the instrument has no secrets.

Devadip Carlos Santana & Turiya Alice Coltrane - 1974 - Illuminations

Devadip Carlos Santana & Turiya Alice Coltrane 

01. Guru Sri Chinmoy Aphorism 1:10
02. Angel Of Air 3:37
03. Angel Of Water 6:18
04. Bliss: The Eternal Now 5:32
05. Angel Of Sunlight 14:43
06. Illuminations 4:20

- Carlos Santana / lead & rhythm guitars, wind chimes, finger cymbals, co-producer
- Alice Coltrane / piano, Wurlitzer, harp, string arranger & conductor (1-3,6), co-producer

- Tom Coster / acoustic & electric pianos, Hammond, finger cymbals, co-producer
- Jules Broussard / flute, soprano saxophone
- David Holland / double bass (1-3,5)
- Jimmy Bond / bass
- Jack DeJohnette / drums, cymbals
- Armando Peraza / congas (5)
- Phil Browne / tambura (5)
- Phil Ford / tabla (5)

This may rankle some of his fans, but I’m going to say it anyway: Two of the best albums guitarist Carlos Santana ever played on didn’t come out under the aegis of his most famous band. For certain heads, the LPs the psych-rock deity cut with jazz legends John McLaughlin (1973’s Love Devotion Surrender) and Alice Coltrane (1974’s Illuminations) stand as his creative peaks.
As the title implies, Illuminations is all about transmitting blazing beams of enlightenment into listeners’ minds. It’s always a great idea to start your album with deep, extended “OOOOOHHHHHMMMMM” chants, especially if you’re a Platinum-selling artist. So listening to “Guru Sri Chinmoy Aphorism,” we gather that this music is going to be about god’s love, which is peachy if you’re into that sort of thing. Honestly, an agnostic like me just cares about the music, but whichever religious route it takes to get to the glory of Illuminations, all should tolerate it.

The one-two feathery punch of “Angel Of Air”/“Angel Of Water” is a profound unfolding of wonderment that preps you for the delights to come. In the former, Turiya and Devadip bestow upon us flute, bass, heavenly strings, pointillistic, crystalline guitar stalagmites, and cymbal splashes. The latter is a glistening pool of almost New Age-y bliss (not a diss, by any means), as these world-class musicians—including Santana electric pianist Tom Coster, and Miles Davis comrades Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland—summon some of the most delicate, celestial aural tapestries in their blessed careers. You know how Kris Kristofferson had a song called “Sunday Morning Coming Down”? Well, this is Sunday morning going up music. You feel like you need more than one heart to appreciate the loving feeling emanating from this song. Side 1 closes with “Bliss: The Eternal Now,” which sounds like something that could’ve appeared on Coltrane’s Lord Of Lords. This is a heroic fanfare of orchestral ambience that portends glimmers of a brilliant new dawn for humankind… but we all know how that turned out.

The album’s peak comes with the 15-minute “Angel Of Sunlight,” the closest thing to Love Devotion Surrender on Illuminations. Elevated by Prabuddha Phil Browne’s cosmic tamboura drones and Phil Ford’s rapid tabla slaps, “Angel Of Sunlight” charges pell-mell into the fiery orb as Santana Santanas at his most Santana-esque. His six-string calligraphy arcs and darts across the sky with grandiloquent fluidity, wailing like some creature beyond any of our thousands of our so-called gods’ imaginations. Then, as if your ears weren’t surfeited enough with pleasure, Coltrane’s Wurlitzer solo flares in delirious, rococo siren tones within the golden-hued tumult. This track is a sonic analogue for the cover, a supernatural lavishment of benedictions from players tilting toward transcendence. What follows can only seem anti-climactic, but “Illuminations” is a denouement of ethereal solemnity and grace. It’s the dignified breather you need after “Angel Of Sunlight”’s ravenous enrapturing.

There’s probably a copy of Illuminations sitting in a used bin near you for under $10. Go forth and grip.

Alice Coltrane - 1972 - Lord of Lords

Alice Coltrane 
Lord of Lords

01. Andromeda's Suffering 9:04
02. Sri Rama Ohnedaruth 6:12
03. Excerpts From The Firebird 5:43
04. Lord Of Lords 11:17
05. Going Home 10:02

Harp, Piano, Organ, Timpani, Percussion – Alice Coltrane
Bass – Charlie Haden
Cello – Anne Goodman, Edgar Lustgarten, Jan Kelly, Jerry Kessler, Jesse Ehrlich, Raphael Kramer, Ray Kelley
Drums, Percussion – Ben Riley
Viola – David Schwartz, Leonard Selic, Marilyn Baker, Myra Kestenbaum, Rollice Dale, Samuel Boghosian
Violin – Bernard Kundell, Gerald Vinci, Gordon Marron, James Getzoff, Janice Gower, Leonard Malarsky, Lou Klass, Murray Adler, Nathan Kaproff, Ronald Folsom, Sidney Sharp, William Henderson

Recorded and mixed at The Village Recorder, Los Angeles, from 5 July to 13 July, 1972

Lord of Lords, released in 1973, was Alice Coltrane's final album for Impulse! It was the final part of a trilogy that began with Universal Consciousness and continued with the expansive World Galaxy. Like its immediate predecessors, the album features a 16-piece string orchestra that Coltrane arranged and conducted, fronted by a trio in which she plays piano, Wurlitzer organ, harp, and timpani with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ben Riley. Riley was familiar with the setting because he had been part of the sessions for World Galaxy. The first two pieces, "Andromeda's Suffering" and "Sri Rama Ohnedaruth" (titled after the spiritual name for her late husband, John Coltrane), are, in essence, classical works. There is little improvisation except on the piano underneath the wall of strings. They are scored for large tone clusters and minor-key drone effects, but also engage in creating timbral overtones. They are quite beautiful, yet have little or nothing to do with jazz except for the seemingly free passages toward the end of the latter track, but even these feel scored, because of the control of tension and dynamic. "Excerpts from The Firebird," which uses the organ to open the piece, features the strings playing almost (because with Alice Coltrane, she interpreted in her own way) directly from Igor Stravinsky's score. The droning organ is so gorgeous underneath those reaching strings that it's breathtaking. As to why she chose this piece as the centerpiece for her own album, she claimed that Stravinsky came to her in a vision and passed something on to her in a glass vial, a liquid that she drank!
Riley and Haden appear in earnest on the title track, a long modal piece where drones, rhythms, and time signatures are registered through the direction of Coltrane's piano and harp, creating a blissful kind of tension and dynamic. It cracks open at about six minutes, and Coltrane (on the organ), Haden, and Riley engage in some lively improvisation, with the strings offering trilling high-end swooping in the background. The set ends with Coltrane's transformation of a gospel hymn called "Going Home." Her harp introduces Riley's brushes and the strings, which in turn offer a root chord for her to play the melody and improvise upon it on the organ. Here the blues make their presence known. It offers a kind of understanding for the listener that Coltrane, no matter where this musical direction was headed (even as it went further toward the Cosmic Music she and her late husband envisioned together), continued to understand perfectly where her musical root was. The interplay between the three principals is lively and engaging, based on droning blues chords, and her soloing -- even amid flurries of notes -- comes right back to the root, and she quotes quite directly from Delta blues riffs and other gospel songs. Haden's bass is a beautiful anchor here (although mixed a bit low), and the strings offer a lovely response to her organ and harp. Riley's cymbals are shimmering shards of light throughout, ending Lord of Lords on a very high note. While it's true that Alice Coltrane's later Impulse! music may not be for everyone, even those who followed her earlier, more jazz-oriented recordings on Impulse!, it was obvious from the beginning that she was seeking to incorporate Indian classical music's drone center into her work, and was literally obsessed with the timbral, chromatic, and harmonic possibilities of strings. She succeeds here, in ending her Impulse! period with elegance, grace, and soul.

“I am looking for a universal sound.”
—John Coltrane
It may seem unfair at first to mention John Coltrane—Alice’s beyond-famous husband—when talking about her music, but listening to Alice Coltrane, you get the impression you can’t mention her without talking about John. In an interview with Alice Coltrane—originally from the September 1968 issue of Jazz and Pop magazine, but later reprinted in the liner notes for then 1998 Impulse! reissue of her first solo record, A Monastic Trio—she recalls John telling her about looking for that “universal sound” saying that “John not only taught me to explore, but to play thoroughly and completely.” She concludes that “You have got to stress the freedom of music to really branch out and be universal.”

Ultimately, Alice Coltrane’s goal was to continue John’s search for that sound, the one that reached beyond chord progressions, beyond horn vamps, beyond genre. This change began in the second-half of John’s career, when Alice took over piano duties from McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders joined the band. The expansive, often manic and unruly sounds that Coltrane’s band played called into question just what music could do, how it could sound, how far it could reach. But, perhaps more importantly to Alice’s career that followed, it makes you question just what exactly jazz music is.

Because in the end, to call Alice Coltrane’s work—and really her husband’s later work too—jazz is merely convenient for us, and damagingly restrictive for the music itself. 1972’s Universal Consciousness and Lord of Lords—now back in print together on this new reissue—reveal two distinct sides of Alice Coltrane’s sound, showing both her understanding of jazz without bending to it and her love of both western and Indian classical music. They are difficult, heavily layered albums, but in the end their dense sound is not one built to keep us out, but rather the way these records pulse with life and Coltrane’s irrepressible spirituality and generosity as a player brings us into the sound and transfixes us.

Universal Consciousness builds nicely on albums that came before it. It grows out of the unbridled celebration of her late husband’s life on A Monastic Trio and the soulful wanderings of her most well-known record, Journey in Satchadananda. The music on Universal Consciousness is as expansive and exploratory as those records, but it is also deeply tense. That tension, however, is nothing malevolent. This music wants to crack you wide open, make no mistake, but not to root around in the wound. Instead, it breaks you of ideas of structure, of order, and gets down into feeling. It pushes you not to peel apart the individual pieces, but rather to see the connections between them. The title track, for example, moves from squealing strings to tumbling organ to those taut strings again so they can engage in a fascinating back and forth with the dreamy pluck of Coltrane’s harp.

The whole album shifts this way, as one song melds into the next so that Universal Consciousness is one complete sound from beginning to end. The instruments begin to bleed together—you can hear the difference between harp and organ, but it doesn’t quite register the feeling is so similar—and the other players fall right into this off-kilter groove. Bassist Jimmy Garrison runs his notes down whatever rabbit hole presents itself in the sound. Jack DeJohnette, who drums on a few tracks here, has the kind of improvisational skills to keep up with Coltrane’s vision. He jumps all over the drums and the cymbals, but somewhere in all his fills the rhythm remains, even when he’s left it behind.

The album is a beautiful, if challenging, sound, one that seems to carry all of Alice Coltrane’s musical interests and her devotion to faith and to her husband’s memory, and the results are jarring but joyous. If this album wants to crack you open, though, wants to force you out of your comfort zone, Lord of Lords rewards you for that breakthrough. This record, her last for Impulse!, finds Coltrane bringing her universal sound to a string orchestra. Here, her band is the same throughout, with Charlie Hayden on the bass and Ben Riley on drums. The uniformity of the band, and the size of the orchestra, gives Lord of Lords a more settled feel than Universal Consciousness, though it is no less wandering and expansive. But where its predecessor threw fits of joy, kicked up dust with its fiery dance, Lord of Lords soars.

The sheer breadth of this sound is staggering, and the way it places the formal orchestral parts alongside Coltrane’s experimentalism sounds remarkably fluid. To hear the dramatic phrasings of the orchestra, coming in powerful rundowns on tracks like “Andromeda’s Suffering”, rolling over Riley’s heavy cymbal clanging and Coltrane’s own vibrant starts and stops is as impressive as it is unsettling. Unruly as it may be, there’s a lightness here, an acceptance of joy, an ease within the wandering. Up to this point, we’ve seen Alice Coltrane searching for that universal sound and finding the first, smoldering pieces of it, but Lord of Lords sounds less like something being searched for and more like something found. A freedom Coltrane is investigating, digging around in, getting the most of that indescribable, all-encompassing feeling out of. Sure, it’s sometimes overly sweet—see the melodramatic “Excerpts from the Firebird”—but this record is a success in more ways than one. It’s an album that builds on all the sounds that came before it, and in the end—like Universal Consciousness—it rewards the close, open listener, though it doesn’t reward you in the way you think. Close listening doesn’t provide clarity here, instead it makes you appreciate the confusion.

These records produce a sound big enough to fill any space—it’s fitting that, in this reissue, the two albums fill the entire 80-minute capacity of a compact disc—and encompass all the spirit and feeling Coltrane (and her husband before her) was trying to convey. It’s not jazz really, nor is it soul-jazz, or classical or neo-classical or experimental. For these two albums, the music just is, and you can make of it what you will. Is that not a universal sound?

Alice Coltrane - 1971 - World Galaxy

Alice Coltrane 
World Galaxy

01. My Favorite Things 6:22
02. Galaxy Around Olodumare 4:15
03. Galaxy In Turiya 9:55
04. Galaxy In Satchidananda 10:25
05. A Love Supreme 9:58

Piano, Organ, Harp, Tambura, Percussion, – Alice Coltrane
Bass – Reggie Workman
Concertmaster – David Sackson
Drums, Percussion – Ben Riley
Narrator – Swami Satchidananda (tracks: B1, B2)

Strings – Alan Shulman, Arthur Aaron, Avron Coleman, Edward Green*, Harry Glickman, Henry Aaron, Irving Spice, Janet Hill, Joan Kalisch, Julien Barber, Ronald Lipscomb, Seymour Miroff*, Thomas Nickerson, William Stone
Strings, Violin [Solo] – LeRoy Jenkins (tracks: B2)
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – Frank Lowe
Timpani [Tympani] – Elayne Jones

Recorded November 15 and 16, 1971, at The Record Plant, New York City.
Swami Satchidananda spelt in three different ways on the sleeve.

''My Beloved Brothers and Sisters: I am overwhelmed with joy to see the entire youth of America gathered here in the name of the fine art of music. 

In fact, through the music, we can work wonders. Music is a celestial sound and it is the sound that controls the whole universe, not atomic vibrations. Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make—and at the same time, break. Even in the war-field, to make the tender heart an animal, sound is used. Without that war band, that terrific sound, man will not become animal to kill his own brethren. So, that proves that you can break with sound, and if we care, we can make also.''

This is how the Indian religious teacher, spiritual master and yoga adept Sri Swami Satchidananda Saraswati started his opening speech at the Woodstock music festival in Bethel, New York, on August 15 1969, talking to approximately 500,000 people. Amongst being the author of many philosophical and spiritual books and founder of an international school, in Tamil Nadu, deep inside the south of India, Satchidananda gained fame and following in the West during his time in New York. He died on August 19, 2002 – 87 years old. 

Satchidananda (yes, the pronunciation of the name can work as a diction exercise as well)’s voice is also featured on the ineffably beautiful song ''A Love Supreme'', from this priceless album, arranged, orchestrated and signed by multi-instrumentalist (piano, organ, harp, tambura, percussion) player Alice Coltrane. The song is also inspired by John Coltrane’s 1964 four part free jazz album, titled alike. 

This LP was recorded in late 1971 and it’s the sixth solo album of Alice Coltrane. It is also considered as being one of the most important and strongest records from her entire music career and ‘’one of the finest moments in jazz from the early '70s’’, as quoted by fellow journalist Thom Jurek.

The harp is probably one of the very few instruments that you can reach the most divine and spiritual sound with; and there’s plenty of harp, in each song on this LP. The trilogy of the Galaxies (''Galaxy Around Olodumare, in Turiya and in Satchidananda) travels through time and religion, eventually hypnotizing the listener with its ridiculously rough melody, harmony and love. This album is pure love. 

''Love is a sacred word. Love is the name of God. The entire universe is created with Love, by Love, and in Love. Love is the beginning, Love is the continuation, and Love is the end.''

Alice Coltrane - 1971 - Universal Consciousness

Alice Coltrane 
Universal Consciousness

01. Universal Consciousness 5:05
02. Battle At Armageddon 7:22
03. Oh Allah 4:54
04. Hare Krishna 8:16
05. Sita Ram 6:12
06. The Ankh Of Amen-Ra 4:48

Bass – Jimmy Garrison (tracks: A1, A3, B1, B2)
Drums – Jack DeJohnette (tracks: A1, A3, B1)
Harp, Organ, Producer – Alice Coltrane
Violin – Joan Kalisch (tracks: A1, A3, B1), John Blair (tracks: A1, A3, B1), Julius Brand (tracks: A1, A3, B1), Leroy Jenkins (tracks: A1, A3, B1)

Originally released on Impulse! in 1971, Universal Consciousness is a major turning point in Alice Coltrane's momentous career. While her previous albums pushed the limits of spiritual free jazz and featured much of her late husband's band, Universal Consciousness expands the harpist / pianist's compositional palette with organ and strings (working with Ornette Coleman).

"Oh Allah" is the finest example of Coltrane's new direction: tense violins dissolve into sublime organ solos and exquisite brushwork from long-time Miles Davis collaborator Jack DeJohnette. While the title track undulates with a fierce clamor, "Hare Krishna" showcases Coltrane's uncanny ability for transcendent and slow-paced arrangements.

In The Wire's "100 Records That Set the World on Fire," David Toop writes, "[Universal Consciousness] clearly connects to other dyspeptic jazz traditions – the organ trio, the soloists with strings – yet volleys them into outer space, ancient Egypt, the Ganges, the great beyond. The production is astounding, the quality of improvisation is riveting, the string arrangements are apocalyptic rather than saccharine, the balance of turbulence and calm a genuine dialectic that later mystic / exotic post-jazz copped out of pursuing. Her lack of constraint was dimly regarded by adherents of '70s jazz and its masculine orthodoxies, yet Alice deserved better credit for virtuosity, originality, and the sheer willpower needed to realize her vision."