Long, long, long before Bill Laswell's 'mix translation' projects, Alice Coltrane did something strikingly similar yet very different.
Taking some of the as-yet-unreleased legacy material from her late husband's archives, she overdubbed numerous elements, boldly 'doctoring' the work of a man who was (quite literally in some instances) revered as a jazz deity. The controversy this caused might be the reason she didn't repeat the experiment. If that's true, it's a great pity, as there's some astonishingly beautiful and intense music here, much of it benefitting greatly from Alice's interventions.
When Charlie Parker, another legendary jazz saxophonist, recorded with strings, some had seen it as a saccharine sell-out, the dilution of a challenging player's talents, an attempt to sweeten the pill of cutting-edge artistic innovation. In effect a dumbing down. If anyone really believes that about Alice's string arrangements on Infinity I'd be more than a little suspicious of their stance. It's true that her string arrangements are more consonant than dissonant, but they are also uncompromisingly personal and modern, and they certainly don't come straight out of the 'let's sweeten this with some strings' producer's guide to popular success!
Alice's additions are, I feel, entirely artistically consistent with late-period Coltrane, which for many is a time dominated by storms of atonal and arhythmic 'noise', albeit they admittedly (and quite naturally) reflect Alice's side of that sonic vision. Importantly they are formed not with fiscal calculations in mind, i.e. she's not 'cashing in' on Trane's legacy, but in pursuit of artistic and 'spiritual' visions.
One of my favourite of her entirely 'new' additions is the tympani solo section, on 'Leo'. Clearly this is pure musical art, an exploration of new territory, and really very beautiful. What a shame it wasn't better received. Had it been, there might well have been more like it forthcoming. As it is, this remains singularly odd, unusual, challenging and (in my view) brilliant. John Coltrane was an intensely dedicated musical explorer, but so too was Alice, and in 'Infinity' we get a glimpse of a musical vein that might have been mined for great riches, had things transpired differently.
on 27 July 2012
Take fantastic source material jazz improvisations from the quartet and add visionary orchestral arrangements and (of course) what you get is truly wonderful, spiritual, powerful music.
The jazz establishment hated this on release and were unable to understand the depth and value of Alice's contributions which were somehow viewed as sacriledge.
Listening now, one can only imagine what would have happened if John had lived longer. I'm sure collaborations of this type and quality would have become the norm for both musicians. We will never know.
This is magnificent, unique music, and it's especially fascinating to hear the tranformation Alice brings not just to the "last" quartet, but to the earlier one with Tyner and Jones.
Unavailable for too long, get this while you can!
on 29 April 2012
This album combines tracks from late in John Coltrane's illustrious career (1965 and 1966) with string arrangements added by his wife, Alice. The mix for me is sublime since it combines the best of both artists' spiritual vision.
The string arrangements are akin to the arrangements on the Universal Consciousness album rather than the Alice Coltrane with Strings album - more edgy and avant garde, however, reflecting the content being a backing to late Trane tracks.
I remember buying the album in 1973 on release, losing it many years later and am now so pleased to reacquire - it has mellowed well, like fine wine. Suggest you buy this rarity whilst still available at a sensible price.
on 2 September 2012
And not just any old strings, they're by his wife Alice. This was the end product of a project which was to marry Coltrane's jazz with Alice Coltrane's orchestral sensibilities, a sort of fusion before fusion was an accepted genre. The only problem was that John died before the project was finished, and it was left to Alice to finish the job. The jazz sessions for the album were already in the can, it just needed Alice with her cohorts to polish off the album. The result was not accepted by the jazz fraternity at the time of release, and there were the odd cry of sellout and sacrilege from some quarters which was unfair.The album sank into some obscurity and has proved almost impossible to find ever since! So now's your chance! The music itself is typical mid 60s Coltrane with Alice's orchestra and harp whizzing all around it to sometimes awesome effect, and it has to be said that her harp playing brings to mind dew drops on a summer's morning , and there's even snatches of her idiosyncratic organ playing as well. An interesting document, and one wonders how things would have stood had John lived longer , I believe he was only 42 when he died. One for fanatics or the curious and not something you'd play too often.