Monday, January 15, 2007

through the looking glass...

well, i just got around to reading today's paper and sadly, it seems alice coltrane passed away late friday. there's a nice interview history here if you want to know more about one of the few humans i'd use the term majestic to describe.

i was fortunate enough to see/hear her perform a year or so ago at ucla, and the experience was definitely transcendent. her presence was oddly like that scene in willy wonka where you first see gene wilder walk out with a limp and a cane, and then he does a flip and instantly transforms from a frail human to a shining mystic. alice walked on stage very slowly and seemed extremely fragile until she sat down at the organ and began to play... mystic would be an understatement as she instantly filled the space with the spirit.

years ago, when asked to make a list of the 10 records i'd take to a desert island, i included her impulse release ptah, the el daoud. i love all three of her early impluse records, but the song turiya and ramakrishna from ptah slays me every single time i hear it.

once, about 10 years ago i either hallucinated while listening to it, or it somehow attracted a ghost to the studio because i swear during ron carter's bass solo a small cup of paint jumped from the floor and splattered against the wall. never question the power of music.

in terms of gospel and blues mixed into the context of jazz, mingus got it right a lot, and with turiya alice got it uber-right. soulful is probably one of the most over used terms in relation to music, but her piano playing on this track is magnificently soulful. it also includes the best few minutes of music ron carter ever recorded, and the moment at the end of his solo when the drums and piano come back into the track is one of my most favorite moments of three people coming together and making music ever.

while mystical and spiritual connections to music were big in the late 60's and early 70's, since the birth of new age music in the early 80's, these ideas became taboo, particularly in the context of jazz where a much more intellectual approach was taken in terms of the language it cloaked itself in.

alice coltrane never strayed from keeping her spiritual beliefs at the forefront of her work; and in many ways music was simply a vehicle for a higher calling. her presence on this planet will be missed, but her music will definitely continue to add beauty and transcendence to the world for a long long time.

turiya and ramakrishna


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