Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Monastic Trio

A Monastic Trio
051 267-2 (original release AS-9156)
Recorded 1967-1968


1. Lord, Help Me To Be
2. The Sun
3. Ohnedaruth
4. Gospel Trane
5. I Want To See You
6. Lovely Sky Boat
7. Oceanic Beloved
8. Atomic Peace
9. Altruvista


Alice Coltrane; piano, harp (6-8)
Pharoah Sanders; tenor sax (1), flute (2), bass clarinet (3)
Jimmy Garrison; bass (1-8)
Ben Riley; drums (1-3)
Rashied Ali; drums (4-8)

This was Alice's first solo album proper, after the collaboration with her late husband that was 'Cosmic Music' and it inhabits a different space to that shared by the Coltranes on the previous recording. Anyone familiar with the intense nature of John Coltrane's last few recordings will notice a major difference - the freedom espoused on his last albums has given way to a gentler spirituality, a reverence for her late husband.

This particular version of the album is 1998 expanded reissue - the original LP comprised just tracks 3-8 of the above; 'Lord, Help Me To Be' and 'The Sun' are taken from 'Cosmic Music'. These are the two tracks from that LP that did not feature John Coltrane (and again are noticeably different in mood, being much less turbulent than those that do).

The music here features Alice on both piano and harp; she may have become famous for her harp and organ on later LPs, but her piano playing here is superb. She combines her late husband's sense for exploration of all a tunes harmonic possibilities with a down-home funkiness (she was later described as playing the organ "like Booker T. on acid"). The presence of Pharoah Sanders on the first three tracks means that at times things get pretty free, but he's always kept in control. When Alice gets a chance to play without the far-out influence of Pharoah's horn, such as on 'Gospel Trane', the result is a swinging piece of post-bop blues that never gets too far away from it's roots. Rashied Ali is excellent as ever, taking an inspired solo around 3:00 that ends far too soon. Garrison is on form too, taking a walking bassline and atomizing it, reducing it to it's component parts and playing around with it in a never-ending cycle of invention.

Also worthy of mention is 'Ohnedaruth', another fascinating post-bop piece which directly links to John Coltrane - "it was chanted a lot by John when working together with his group" says Alice in the sleevenote. The presence of her harp on the later tracks (side two of the original album - how much easier it must have been to sequence an album in the days before CDs!) gives the music a more obviously spiritual mood, whilst remaining as firmly rooted in the post-bop tradition as the piano led tracks of the flipside.

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