In the most recent issue of The New Yorker there’s a wonderful short essay on Alice Coltrane by Hua Hsu to mark the reissue of ‘World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’ (Luaka Bop) next month. The print magazine title is ‘Praise Songs’ (online it’s re-named ‘Alice Coltrane’s devotional music’).
Hsu speaks of how he discovered the music of A. Coltrane on a blog ‘specialising in obscure “celestial” music’. He then adds: ‘I love anything that dares to try and describe the wholeness of the universe, and (that he is) a sucker for harps.’
‘When I listened to “Rama Katha,” Hsu writes, ‘I was startled by its quiet and its patience.’ Love his unexpected use of the word startled there. ‘It was so intimate and honest I almost felt that I shouldn’t be listening. I couldn’t tell if its ambient drones were the result of the poor digitisation of a hissing cassette or part of the music itself.'
(This amateur fan-made video for 'Rama Katha' includes the description: Published on Dec 5, 2016, filmed 12/5/16 in nyc and 6/14/15 in france, angel footage: mom, music: alice coltrane)
Hsu concludes his writing on Ms Coltrane with the following words: ‘Alice was backed only by her keyboard, which flickered and whirred from a comfortable distance. Her voice – never the instrument she was famous for – resounded with untroubled confidence. This wasn’t music that was pushing its makers and listeners to a higher plane. Alice was already there.’
The following extract, which is clearly written from a place of real connection with the work of Ms Coltrane resonated with me, not only for its beautiful prose:
Alice Coltrane, A Monastic Trio (Impulse! 1968) Personnel: Alice Coltrane, harp and piano; Pharaoh Sanders, flue, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Rashied Ali, drums; Ben Riley, drums.