Alice Coltrane had an enormous legacy to overcome in her late husband-- her debut album, "A Monastic Trio" stuck pretty close to what John Coltrane's last bands were doing the studio, "Huntington Ashram Monastary" finds her branching out. Recorded in mid-1969, a year after her debut and two years after the death of her husband, Coltrane performs on piano and harp and is backed by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Rashied Ali.
Musically, it's a bit more relaxed than before, with Coltrane's playing a bit less dense and significantly looser. At its best, this looseness translates into inventiveness in ideas with Ali's gentle percussion and Carter's stunning virtuosity holding things nicely together-- the opener and title track is a good example of this-- Carter sets up a deep groove, Ali frames everything, and Coltrane and suprisingly nimble on harp. Likewise, "Paramahansa Lake" and "IHS" find Coltrane surprisingly inventive-- escaping the stereotypes of the harp on the former and playing in a bluesy, Monk-like piano on the latter, with Carter and Ali anchoring ("IHS" also features some superb arco playing from Carter).
But there's a bit too much looseness at times-- "Turiya" sounds like Carter and Coltrane are playing different pieces, even if Coltrane's two-handed performance finds her exploring several ideas to great effect and "Via Sivadangar" sounds so much like late John Coltrane that it falls apart in comparison.
This issue, from Impulse! Japan has been nicely remastered and appears in a mini-LP sleeve-- it looks quite good but it's a hair too hot, and once or twice some distortion surfaces. It's infrequent enough to be an irritant more than anything else. The album isn't essential, but it's well worth a listen for fan's of Alice Coltrane.