The as­cent of mantra

An­thol­ogy of the spir­i­tual jazz trail­blazer’s Warner Bros stu­dio record­ings. By An­drew Male.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Reissues -

Alice Coltrane Spir­i­tual Eter­nal THE AL­BUMS Alice Coltrane recorded for Warner Bros in the late ’70s re­main the most over­looked of her fas­ci­nat­ing ca­reer. The deep modal quest­ing of 1968’s A Monas­tic Trio to the or­ches­tral rich­ness of ’73’s Lord Of Lords are now estab­lished as mas­ter­pieces of spir­i­tual jazz, while the ashram mu­sic she later recorded was fi­nally made avail­able to non-de­vo­tional ears when Luaka Bop re­leased World Spir­i­tu­al­ity Clas­sics 1: The Ecstatic Mu­sic Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasan­gi­tananda in 2017. Yet the bridge between those two very dif­fer­ent worlds has failed to re­ceive the same de­gree of at­ten­tion, un­til now. As Ash­ley Kahn tells it in his ex­cel­lent lin­er­notes, Coltrane’s ar­rival, in 1975, at the home of Fleet­wood Mac and The Doo­bie Broth­ers came af­ter Bob Kras­now, Warner Bros’ new VP in charge of tal­ent, heard her mu­sic dur­ing a latenight opium ses­sion with San­tana man­ager Stan Mar­cum. His­tory doesn’t record whether Kras­now was sim­i­larly baked when he lis­tened to Eter­nity, Coltrane’s first LP for Warner Bros, nor how he re­sponded. The open­ing track, Spir­i­tual Eter­nal, be­gins with Coltrane’s su­per-heavy workout on a dron­ing Wurl­itzer, be­fore she’s joined by a huge-sound­ing string sec­tion. A groove is estab­lished, then ques­tioned by a solo harp piece, Wis­dom Eye. The reedy Wurl­itzer re­turns on a com­plex Latin strut, Los Ca­bal­los, be­fore being swapped out for a dis­tort­ing Fen­der Rhodes on Om Supreme. The al­bum ends on a glo­ri­ous ver­sion of Stravin­sky’s Spring Rounds, with Coltrane cor­ralling a full orches­tra into reach­ing for what she called Stravin­sky’s “in­fi­nite sound of eter­nity”. While sim­i­larly ex­ploratory, Coltrane’s sec­ond Warner Bros al­bum, Radha-Krsna Nama Sankir­tana, was a work of two dis­tinct halves: the first side rooted in Vedic de­vo­tional songs and the sec­ond taken up by a raw 19-minute or­ganand-drums blues riff on a tra­di­tional Hindi mantra. The fo­cus had become spir­i­tual rather than musical, but with her fi­nal and finest Warner Bros stu­dio LP, Tran­scen­dence, it felt like a sig­na­ture sound had been found. On its fi­nal four tracks, the ashram vo­cal­ists are singing in a gutsy, soul­ful style in tune with the gospel-blues roots of Alice’s youth. This is the sound Coltrane would take with her to the Vedan­tic Cen­tre in Agoura, Cal­i­for­nia, and later the Sai Anan­tam ashram in Agoura Hills, where she taught un­til her death as Swami Turiyasan­gi­tananda. Dis­cussing her Warn­ers de­par­ture with Essence mag­a­zine in 2006, Coltrane said: “I wanted to go deeper into what the Lord had out­lined for me… the mu­sic was chang­ing and I thought maybe my time is fin­ished.” This wel­come reis­sue would sug­gest that per­haps, her time is now.

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