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Alice Coltrane - The Carnegie Hall Concert

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    Posted: 14 Apr 2024 at 11:03am

recording of the week,Alice Coltrane - The Carnegie Hall Concert

by Barney Whittaker
ALICE COLTRANE - Carnegie Hall Concert cover

Hot on the heels of one of last year’s most talked about archival releases – John Coltrane’s Evenings at the Village Gate – comes another keenly anticipated moment in the history of Impulse! Records. Having retrieved the tapes off the shelf and blown away more than a half-century’s worth of dust, the esteemed label - a veritable hot-house of revolutionary jazz activity in the late sixties and seventies - presents the latest musical offering amidst the unfolding of what is being declared as ‘The Year of Alice’, with more releases, exhibitions and performances to follow.

Recorded live by Impulse! at a charity gala event given at Carnegie Hall for the benefit of the Swami Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga Institute, this incredible set never saw an official commercial release before now. Having taken place fifty three years ago, recordings of this concert have been available (albeit in truncated form) for public consumption since 2018, when the tumultuous rendition of ‘Africa’ was released on the Carnegie Hall ‘71 bootleg. Suffering complaints of lacklustre sound quality (as well as copyright violation), any outstanding wrongs have since been righted by the recent pressing of this current definitive version. Let’s continue by diving into the context surrounding the performance.

By now four years a widow, Coltrane was already well involved in forwarding the musical and spiritual vision her late husband had begun concocting from his worshipful magnum opus, A Love Supreme (1965). Following Trane’s death, Alice steadfastly committed herself to a life of devotional advocacy, succinctly picking up the baton of this nascent mystical branch of artistry the era-defining musician had left behind. As a matter of fact, she also used music as a springboard for her own sacred beliefs, mixing her time spent recording with travelling to India and studying under Swami Satchidananda, a leader in the Hindu-influenced movements of the time. These inspirations led Alice down a path of rigorous study of different spiritual and musical traditions that blended the intellectual side of American jazz with the transcendental qualities of Eastern mysticism. The results, as realised by some of the finest players in jazz alongside fellow Swami devotees, remain breathtaking.

The gala concert was one of two halves, with the first two transcendental tunes, ‘Journey in Satchidananda’ and ‘Shiva-Loka’ taken from Alice’s Journey in Satchidananda (1971) – the trailblazing album she had just released on Impulse! – followed by two more explosive tunes, ‘Africa’ and ‘Leo’, both penned by her partner and former collaborator. Sanders and Shepp are the perfect players for the job, having both sat in with Coltrane at some point throughout his career – both on the unvanquishable Ascension (1966) and, in Sanders’ case, as a full-time sideman in Trane’s avant-garde pursuits.

The biggest contrast to that which came before is the overall tone of the performance. Listen to recordings made of Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman’s performances at John’s funeral in 1967, and you will hear passionate cries entrenched in unmistakeable grief. Thanks to the spiritual guidance of her guru, Alice had begun to find her light out of the darkness by the time of the Carnegie Hall performance. With Sanders and Shepp at the helm, the saxophonist’s role in her ensemble had finally moved from pallbearers to torchbearers, no longer caught up in a reflective eulogy but finally ready to pave the way forward by treading new ground.  

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 14 Apr 2024 at 11:06am
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