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Alice Coltrane: Translinear Light

Chris May By

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To say that we've been waiting 26 years, since her last commercial release, Transfiguration, for Alice Coltrane to return to the serene "Eastern" astral jazz which she and Pharoah Sanders developed in the late '60s, is not entirely accurate. That would imply the expectation that such a return would, one day, be made—and since Coltrane withdrew from the jazz world in 1980 to devote herself to spiritual pursuits, her re-emergence seemed to grow less likely with every passing year.

There were occasional, tantalising glimpses during the '90s: she played piano on daughter Michelle's '96 album I Think Of You and in '98 appeared in concert at New York Town Hall as a guest of son Ravi. After that, she withdrew once again to her Californian Vedantic Center. By then already in her sixties, it seemed probable that we had heard the last from Alice Coltrane, at least in a jazz context.

So what a joy it is to report that she is back in the jazz world, her aesthetic gloriously unchanged and with this gorgeous, uplifting and life-enhancing album. Translinear Light is rock solid in Ptah, The El Daoud 's and Journey To Satchidananda 's the-Nile-meets-the-Ganges-by-way-of-the-Hudson ostinato-heavy, vamp-rich groove: it could almost have come out of the sessions for those albums or those for Sanders' even earlier Tauhid, of which it is massively and magically reminiscent.

This is an album on which Coltrane revisits her '60s/'70s sound and digs deeper rather than innovates further—from the choice of material (including a remake of Ptah 's emblematic "Blue Nile"), instrumentation (no harp, sadly, but plenty of that idiosyncratic Wurlitzer) and musicians (including old colleagues Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette) through to Ravi Coltrane's sympathetic and respectful production.

Every track is a delight, radiating peace, integrity and love. Special mentions must go to the title track—an homage to Tauhid 's "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" and A Love Supreme 's "Psalm"—and "Blue Nile," where Ravi's tenor soulfully replaces Sanders' and Joe Henderson's original alto flute pairing. "Crescent" and "Leo" are also outstandingly beautiful—fresh and convincing explorations of legendary John Coltrane material.

Wonderful, wonderful music for head, heart and soul.


Track Listing: Sita Ram; Walk With Me; Translinear Light; Jagadishwar; This Train; The Hymn; Blue Nile; Crescent; Leo; Triloka; Satya Sai Isha

Personnel: Alice Coltrane (Wurlitzer organ, piano, synthesizer), Jack DeJohnette (synth drum, drums on "Sita Ram," "Translinear Light," "This Train," "Crescent," "Leo"), Ravi Coltrane (percussion, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, sleigh bells on "Sita Ram," "Translinear Light," "Blue Nile," "Crescent," "Leo"), James Genus (bass on "Walk With Me," "Blue Nile"), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums on "Walk With Me," "Blue Nile"), Charlie Haden (bass on "Translinear Light," "This Train," "Crescent," "Triloka"), Oran Coltrane (alto saxophone on "The Hymn"), The Sai Anantam Ashram Singers (vocals on "Satya Sai Isha")

Title: Translinear Light | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Impulse!


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