John Coltrane

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Infinity Review

by Brian Olewnick

Recorded at several sessions in the two years prior to his death but not issued until 1972, Infinity was the subject of much controversy among Coltrane aficionados when it finally appeared. The horror on the part of Coltrane purists was directed to the posthumous string arrangements written by Alice Coltrane, his widow, which were grafted onto the performances. But however much the strings softened or unnecessarily augmented the music, it must be said that Alice Coltrane really didn't do such a bad job and the ultimate result is an unusual and oddly attractive work. The juxtaposition of the fiery, very free playing of late Coltrane against the dreamy, consonant strings is seductively appealing and one might even make the argument that, given the increasing mystical proclivities of his later years and the presence of Eastern instruments in his ensemble, he may well have approved. The pieces include some of his more powerful late compositions such as "Leo" and "Peace on Earth," and his playing (with a rare smidgen of bass clarinet) is typically inspired, if not reaching the raging heights of releases like Live in Japan. Whatever problems the Coltrane ideologue may have with his wife's embroideries, Infinity still deserves a place in his/her collection.

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