There have been precious few harpists in jazz. Dorothy Ashby was one, David Snell who made a memorable contribution to John Dankworth's What The Dickens! (Fontana Records, 1963) was another. But surely the most famous of them all was Alice Coltrane. So it is that Alina Bzhezhinska has dedicated this album to her heroine. It's a timely release too, as its recording dates in late 2017 marked the tenth anniversary of Alice Coltrane's passing and the fiftieth year since her husband, saxophone supremo John Coltrane died.
Bzhezhinska takes the "inspiration" element of the title of her album to considerable lengths by including on it no fewer than four numbers penned by Alice Coltrane including "Journey In Satchidananda," not an easy composition to emulate, but here it's given a faithful interpretation, Toni Kofi's soulful soprano confidently taking the Pharoah Sanders role. Of the two Alice Coltrane numbers gleaned from Eternity, (Warner Brothers, 1975), "Wisdom Eye" is afforded a dutifully lissome interpretation whereas on "Los Caballos," Bzhezhinska skilfully translates the melody previously performed on organ onto the harp. She also includes a paean to John Coltrane in the form of his timeless classic "After The Rain."
But Bzhezhinska is herself no mean composer, and evidence to support this comes by way of the delightful ballad "Spero," the dreamily evocative "Winter Moods" and "Annoying Semitones" whose title reflects the vicissitudes of a musician tasked with playing an instrument not usually considered a "natural" candidate for jazz. Given that this album, indicated by its title, is an homage to both Alice and John Coltrane, and by its very nature, is something of a modal-fest (but hey, nothing wrong with that!), Bzhezhinska has produced an album of mesmerizing beauty and elegance.
Wisdom Eye; Blue Nile; Los Caballos; Spero; Annoying Semitones; Winter Moods; Following A Lovely Sky Boat; Lemky; After The Rain; Journey In Satchidananda.
Alina Bzhezhinska: harp; Tony Kofi: soprano saxophone (tracks 2, 4, 7, 10), tenor saxophone (tracks 3, 8, 9); Larry Bartley: double bass (tracks 2-10); Joel Prime: drums and percussion (tracks 1-3, 5-10).
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