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Translinear Light by Alice Coltrane

There’s something about the Coltrane name that lets you know you’re in for something special. A bit otherworldly, perhaps, but special nonetheless.

Alice Coltrane, collaborating with her son, Ravi Coltrane (who was named in honor of jazz legend Ravi Shankar), has released her first recording of new material in almost 30 years. Translinear Light is a selection of 11 tracks that run the gamut from traditional Indian and spiritual music to originals by Alice and covers of songs penned by her late husband, John Coltrane.

The album opens with Sita Ram, one of three traditional songs from India. That is followed by the charming, yet moody Walk With Me, a spiritual that reflects on Coltrane’s Detroit roots on piano, and her early church experience.

The title song, Alice’s own Translinear Light, is an elegant piece that’s best listened to when the world around you is still. That can be said for most music, but this is one song that’s best taken when the listener can relax, purge all outside thoughts and just listen.

Another beauty is the follow-up title, Jagadishwar, a tranquil selection that features superb tenor sax by Ravi Coltrane, seasoned with just a hint of the blues.

Blue Nile, Alice’s original that first appeared on her 1970 album Ptah the El-Daoud, again feature’s Ravi’s tenor, aided by James Genus on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. Like most of the album, this is good, ambient music, but is best appreciated when the listener can devote full attention and hear every note.

For a casual listen, it would be easy to focus mainly on the saxophone as lead or soloist, and overlook Alice’s delicate, yet skillful piano play. Or you might fail to notice the bass by either Genus or Charlie Haden, the latter appearing on Crescent, a classic John Coltrane ballad.

Translinear Light is a journey into the mysterious and the beautiful. While several tracks are presented in ambient, acoustic ensemble style, others embrace the electronic. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Alice Coltrane
  • CD Title: Translinear Light
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Impulse
  • Tracks: Sita Ram, Walk With Me, Translinear Light, This Train, The Hymn, Blue Nile, Crescent, Leo, Triloka, Satya Sai Isha
  • Musicians: Alice Coltrane, piano, Wurlitzer organ, synthesize; Ravi Coltrane, tenor and soprano saxophones; Oran Coltrane, alto saxophone on The Hymn; Charlie Haden and James Genus, bass; Jack DeJohnette and Jeff "Tain" Watts, drums; The Sai Anantam Ashram Singers, vocals on Satya Sai Isha
  • Rating: Four Stars
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