ALICE COLTRANE — Journey in Satchidananda (review)

ALICE COLTRANE — Journey in Satchidananda album cover Album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Along with Pthah, this could be Alice’s absolute tops in her career, because she’s nearing the climax of her quest for spirituality through music and clearly the apex is very near the present album’s release. Nowhere in Alice’s discography is the Indian Classical music influence greater than on Satchidanada (a guru mentor of her) save maybe Pthah. Assisted by old Trane usual suspects, like Pharoah, Rashied and McBee and the giant Haden on bass, she’s also invited two Indian musicians in Vishnu Wood on oud and Tulsi on the ever-present tambura.

Opening on the tamboura-laden title track, the album directly sends you in a daze of Indian spirituality, spiced with some of the tastiest Pharoah sax intervention ever and Alice’s rambling fingers on her harp. The following Shiva-Loka sees Alice switching to piano and we’re off for another intra-Indian mythology journey. As an afterthought, the short Bombay piece seems to be a fitting epilogue before the needle lifts from the wax.

On the flipside, Alice reminisces of her late husband with a superb Something About, where she evokes McCoy Tyner though her piano part over the now-usual tamboura background and Pharoah’s sax goes limit dissonant…. A very emotional track… difficult not to shed a tear to it. The album closes on the Osiris track, which dates from an earlier recording session, but it’s definitely not out of character with the rest of the album, even if it’s the only tamboura-less piece, but Visnou’s oud fills the void.

Well, Satchi is certainly one of my three fave Alice album, and is downright close to Pthah at the top of the pyramid. If you’re an atheist like, don’t be afraid of Alice’s (and many of her peers and collabs) quest for that strange happy-go-lucky mix of spirituality, a sort of boiling pot where monotheist and polytheist religious beliefs and myths blend in a kind of tasty soup, but you won’t be joining some guru sect even if you listen to her works daily. Run for this one, before they stop pressing discs of any kind.
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