May 11, 2017

Alice Coltrane - A Monastic Trio (1968)


This is the first album from Alice Coltrane as a band leader. She retains the other pieces of John Coltrane's final rhythm section for this session: Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Rashied Ali (drums), so the bonds between the three was already well established. The music has a calm and spiritual aura, but doesn't have the super intense Eastern overtones heard on Journey In Satchidananda. The original LP release features three piano trio tracks on the A-side and three harp trio tracks on the B-side. Her harp playing is one of the most unique and iconic sounds to ever hit the jazz genre, but I actually think the piano tracks are the highlights on this album. The bluesy, wintry New York mood the band conjures up on the A-side is simply beauty on a level that can't even be touched by an impressive harp trio. I think her harp playing got even better in the context of deeper, more dilated compositions complete with a tamboura in the band (this was a few years after A Monastic Trio). The digital copy I have linked below is a rip of the CD reissue and includes a few cool bonus tracks. The first is an exceptional quartet piece titled Lord, Help Me To Be with Pharoah Sanders on winds followed by gorgeous piano trio song, The Sun; both of these were previously only available on a semi-obscure Alice & John Coltrane split album (Cosmic Music). The CD issue is rounded out by one of the greatest solo piano pieces I've heard, titled Altruvista; this was an unreleased track from the John Coltrane Expression date. Personally, I think the album would have been best if it was solely piano-based; with the reissue bonus tracks replacing the three harp pieces on the original pressing, but trust that it is an exceptional listen no matter which tracklisting you choose.

Sample

A Monastic Trio