The death of John Coltrane left not only a musical, but a spiritual void among his many followers and admirers. By aligning himself with the searchers among the new generation, John Coltrane legitimized their quest and set a daunting standard of excellence for those who experiment outside the mainstream of modern jazz. Among those searchers was young Alice McLeod of Detroit, a virtuoso on the vibraphone, piano, organ and harp. John Coltrane had always expressed a fondness for the harp, and while young McLeod never did bring that instrument into the context of Trane's working groups, she did bring her rolling, ecstatic style of piano to bear in the saxophonist's last quartets and quintets as Mrs. Alice Coltrane. JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA, recorded in the fall of 1970, is a serene, composed meditation on the lessons of the 1960's, a mystical work of enduring sweetness and spiritual longing. The concluding cut "Isis And Osiris" (recorded earlier that summer at the Village Gate), is a global village of texture and song, animated by Pharaoh Sanders' gently wafting soprano and Rashied Ali's quicksilver brushwork, as Vishnu Wood's feathery oud, Charlie Haden's woody bass and Coltrane's sweeping harp combine to create a dreamy vortex of sound. The title cut and "Shiva-Loka"--centered around Cecil McBee's sonorous, lyric bass vamps and Tulsi's droning tamboura--are gorgeous evocations of modal jazz and Indian ragas, again exploiting the contrast between Sanders' reedy chants and Coltrane's blissful arpeggios. And then there's "Stopover Bombay" and "Something About John Coltrane," which reveal the melodious symmetry of Alice Coltrane's piano playing, a singular style deeply imbued in the old time testimonies of the spirituals and the blues.
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Easily one of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing that at once compiled all of his innovations from his past, spoke of his current deep spirituality, and also gave a glimpse into the next two and a half years (sadly, those would be his last). Recorded at the end of 1964, Trane's classic quartet of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison stepped into the studio and created one of the most thought-provoking, concise, and technically pleasing albums of their bountiful relationship (not to mention his best-selling to date). From the undulatory (and classic) bassline at the intro to the last breathy notes, Trane is at the peak of his logical yet emotionally varied soloing while the rest of the group is remarkably in tune with Coltrane's spiritual vibe. Composed of four parts, each has a thematic progression leading to an understanding of spirituality through meditation. From the beginning, "Acknowledgement" is the awakening of sorts that trails off to the famous chanting of the theme at the end, which yields to the second act, "Resolution," an amazingly beautiful piece about the fury of dedication to a new path of understanding. "Persuance" is a search for that understanding, and "Psalm" is the enlightenment. Although he is at times aggressive and atonal, this isn't Trane at his most adventurous (pretty much everything recorded from here on out progressively becomes much more free, and live recordings from this period are extremely spirited), but it certainly is his best attempt at the realization of concept -- as the spiritual journey is made amazingly clear. A Love Supreme clocks in at just over 30 minutes, but if it had been any longer it could have turned into a laborious listen. As it stands, just enough is conveyed. It is almost impossible to imagine a world without A Love Supreme having been made, and it is equally impossible to imagine any jazz collection without it.
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