Alice Coltrane

Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana

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Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana was issued in the mid-'70s by Warner Bros. Forgoing jazz altogether, this set is a series of devotional songs from the Hindu religion that Alice Coltrane practiced. Three of the tracks here are chants, with Coltrane backing a vocal chorus on Fender Rhodes and organ. They are memorable, catchy, and moving given the near ecstatic joy of the singers. The other two tracks here feature Coltrane's interpretations of Indian songs. On "Ganesha," she plays harp and is accompanied only by Sita Coltrane on tamboura. This is not jazz, but it is engaging, utterly compelling music, particularly notable for Alice's juxtaposition of space against melody. "Om Nama Sivaya" is the album's closer, and at 19 minutes is over half the album's length. Here is where the great jazz musician shows her face. Playing Wurlitzer organ, Alice is backed only by John Coltrane Jr. on drums. She improvises against a traditional Indian mode and stretches it until it turns back on itself, breaks, moves into other modalities of harmonic invention, and rebuilds toward another peak. It's driving, with a circular rhythm and a melody that reveals itself briefly at odd junctures; it offers a treasure trove of great soloing. This album, was all but ignored upon release. If reviewed at all, it was (usually) with undeserved male chauvinist scorn. Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana is deeply satyisfying musically--provided one isn't seeking a restrictive from of jazz. This is music of a deepy individual nature, wholly original as all Alice Coltrane's works are, complete in its resonant emotionally and spiritually.

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