Alice Coltrane – World Galaxy (Impulse, 1972)
I had been trying to track this record down for some time now and was very happy when I finally got a copy via ebay at a reasonable price. This is available on disc, but only as a very expensive Japanese import. On this record, Alice Coltrane continues her spiritual and musical quest playing piano, organ and harp; aided by Frank Lowe on saxophone, Reggie Workman on bass and Ben Riley on drums. There is a large string section on some tracks and a couple of guest appearances.
The music begins with an interpretation of a song indelibly linked to her late husband, “My Favorite Things.” But this edition of the old standard takes moves in a fascinating new direction. Alice plays some beautifully pointed organ and piano, with the stings not acting as a sappy background, but as a swirling, whirling foil to her playing. The strings and harp take center stage on “Galaxy Around Olodumare” and “Galaxy Around Turiya” as the music builds to a meditative drone.
“Galaxy in Satchidananda” features some of the organ work for which she is famous, unlike any of the famous jazz organists to come before her, she has a very unique sound, influenced by eastern and spiritual music. Alice’s guru makes a special spoken word appearance to promote peace and love, and then the band glides into a portion of “A Love Supreme” in which Alice’s now funky organ plays off against guest LeRoi Jenkins violin to an interesting effect.
All in all, it’s a very interesting album. Perhaps some aspects are a little dated, particularly the guru’s narration and the string orchestra draped over some parts of the music like a heavy velvet curtain, but most of it holds up quite well. Alice Coltrane’s music is overdue for critical reinterpretation and a re-issue program from Impulse, since she made music that is well worth exploring.
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