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Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda - The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitanana

  by Keith How

published: 18 / 7 / 2017

Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda - The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitanana
Label: Luaka Bop
Format: CD


Engaging and impressive new collection of spiritual songs from jazz pianist, harpist and composer Alice Coltrane, the wife of John Coltrane

When musicians encounter God something remarkable seems to happen - Jan Gabarek and the Hillyard Ensemble with 'Officium', for instance, and George Harrison, Mahavishnu Orchestra-era John McLaughlin, Bob Dylan ('Slow Train Coming') to name a few others. Perhaps it is something to do with the ego? Their music often seems to take on another dimension. Alice Coltrane, the wife of John Coltrane, was a jazz pianist, harpist and composer in her own right. Alice and John had a growing interest in spirituality, and after John died in 1967 Alice released thirteen albums, moving from jazz into a more cosmic spiritual direction before stepping away from the public eye. By 1972 she had abandoned her secular life and, taking on the name 'Turiyasangitananda', she lived in an ashram becoming a spiritual director, composing and performing kirtans (chants). After twenty-five years she returned to recording and performing until her passing in 2007. This potted history of Alice Coltrane puts into context this collection of some of her spiritual compositions, which were originally only available on cassette in the ashram in California. So how is it? I can sum up this album in one word. Divine. There is nothing soppy or new age about these songs. From the opening intensity of '0m Rama' the listener is immersed in a rarefied atmosphere of sounds that engage you on a different level. Don’t go thinking “more Hare Krishna” stuff. This is music from a top class performer giving her best for the highest. Coltrane draws from her gospel and blues roots and jazz heritage, inflecting these influences with reflective and spiritual dimension. Synthesizers swirl and soar in stillness and spiral as though ascending to “heaven”. Tambourines bring an ethereal sense while the choir sing heavenly prayers. Coltane herself intones devotional lyrics. As well as the mantra-esque feel often the music drops into a gospel groove and by the time we reach the sixth track, the immense 'Journey to Satchidananda', there is a realisation that you have been transported into another realm. Coltrane’s cascading harp introduces 'Er Ra', a moment of transcendent beauty that gently leads into the meditative hymn 'Keshava Murahara', a hypnotic prayer embellished with soaring synthesisers. (I first heard this driving over the Peak District moors at sunset, which was a most moving experience). The name 'Turiyasangitananda' means 'Highest for God' if you were wondering. Music for dark times. Do yourself a favour. Put aside an hour and listen to this album.

Track Listing:-
1 Om Rama
2 Om Shanti
3 Rama Rama
4 Rama Guru
5 Hari Narayan
6 Journey to Satchidananda
7 Er Ra
8 Keshava Murahara

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