1/ Lord, Help Me To Be (Coltrane) 7.30 2/ The Sun (Coltrane) 4.01 3/ Ohnedaruth (Coltrane) 7.49 4/ Gospel Trane (Coltrane) 6.44 5/ I Want To See You (Coltrane) 6.42 6/ Lovely Sky Boat (Coltrane) 6.51 7/ Oceanic Beloved (Coltrane) 4.18 8/ Atomic Peace (Coltrane) 5.53 9/ Altruvista (Coltrane) 6.55 Tracks 1, 2 and 3 recorded at thr Coltrane Studio, Dix Hills, New York, January 29, 1968 Tracks 4,5,6,7 and 8 recorded at the Coltrane Studio, Dix Hills, New York, June 6, 1968 Track 9 recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, March 7, 1967 Engineered by Roy Musnug Track 9 engineered by Rudy Van Gelder Produced by Alice Coltrane Reissue produced by Michael Cuscuna Digitally Remastered by Erick Labson at MCA StudiosAlice Coltrane: harp (6,7,8), piano (1,2,3,4,5,9); Pharoah Sanders: bass clarinet (3), flute (2), tenor saxophone (1); Ben Riley (1,2,3): drums; Rashied Ali (4,5,6,7,8): drums; Jimmy Garrison (1-8): bass; John Coltrane (2,7): voice.
1968 - Impulse! (USA), AS-9156 (Vinyl) 19?? - Impulse! (Japan) (CD) 1998 - Impulse! (USA), IMPD-267 (CD)Note: The 1998 reissue is the only version to contain tracks 1,2 and 9.
Thom Jurek (courtesy of the All Music Guide, via the Get Music website)
[The New Thing is getting on in years, but there's still more left to it than just kitsch value when you start delving into the true masters of the movement. Impulse saw many of these men and women go through their ranks, and have, with their New Thing reissue series, been doing a fine job of getting this music back within earshot.
The first batch of New Thing discs featured the likes of John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders prominently, as well as Sun Ra, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. Part two of the series presents a wider range of artists playing slightly more esoteric material.]
A posthumous tribute by a wife to her husband? What could be more touching? Alice Coltrane said it best herself: A MONASTIC TRIO was "dedicated to the mystic, Ohnedaruth, known as John Coltrane. . ." Anyone with a cursory familiarity with how Alice Coltrane came to regard her husband wouldn't be surprised by such a statement. They wouldn't be surprised, either, by the singularity of her piano playing, for any accusation that she was a charity case of John's, on the receiving end of some pretty obvious nepotism, is way out of line. She built her career on her own, thank you very much, from her days with vibist Terry Gibbs. In fact, it wasn't until John Coltrane had passed away that her own achievements were totally eclipsed by her apparent debt to him.
Anyway, A MONASTIC TRIO gets off to a promising start, with a deep-rooted, gospelly number called "Lord, Help Me to Be." Pharoah Sanders' raging tenor augments the trio here (he plays understated, almost inaudible flute on "The Sun" and bass clarinet on "Ohnedaruth) and Coltrane's gutsy piano is delightfully low. Likewise for a Jazz Messengerish "Gospel Trane," which is in a similar vein but, alas, wanders into meandering, feeble solo from Coltrane herself. Her great sensitivity makes "The Sun" what it is, though; it opens with an odd and eerie recording of John repeating, "May there be peace and love and perection throughout all creation. . ." but quickly turns to a nimble piano figure from Alice, and the piece metamorphoses into a near-solo from her. Sanders, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Ben Riley (who yields to Rashied Ali after three tracks) are way back in the mix.
Unfortunately, things degenerate from there. "Lovely Sky Boat," "Oceanic Beloved" and "Atomic Peace" all have Alice abandoning the piano in favour of the harp, and it's no step forward. The problem with the harp is that beyond the usual, hackneyed twinkling effect, it isn't flexible enough for a jazz context, really. The result is a whole lot of nothing over marginal grooves, and it's an incredibly uninspired note on which to wind up A MONASTIC TRIO. Not even a previously unheard solo performance called "Altruvista," waxed in the 1967 sessions that resulted in John Coltrane's EXPRESSIONS, makes up for it.
2 stars out of 4
Jeff Morris (courtesy of 52nd Street Jazz website)
The liner notes for this attractively packaged disc explain the title: 'It is called Monastic Trio because John's body has left here. And all the music she has made "more seperated" from John...is monastic. Monastic and spun solitarily in a string cosmos/universe inhabited by memory, of event and emotional circumstance. 'Mrs John Coltrane is largely remembered for her contributions to her husband's ensemble after the departure of pianist McCoy Tyner (and drummer Elvin Jones) in 1966. And, for the majority of record buyers, that's how it's going to remain. For those who wish to experiment though, the few Impulse albums that Alice recorded after John's death are fascinating examples of the kind of 'spaced-out' jazz the label went in for at this time. A Monastic Trio is essential to John Coltrane collectors, not only for the presence of his (posthumously added) voice on two tracks, The Sun (originally released on Cosmic Music) where her piano playing is deeply beautiful, and Oceanic Beloved, but also for including a previously unreleased piano solo taped at the final John Coltrane session, Expression, in 1967. The personnel throughout the disc is virtually identical to that record too, with the flute, tenor and bass clarinet of Pharoah Sanders in attendance alongside Jimmy Garrison's bass and, barring three tracks, the drums of Rashid Ali.
Three tracks feature her harp playing in a trio setting, though it largely consists of rather expansive arpeggio's over a free bass and drums accompaniment, dreamy but rather static, though Lovely Sky Boat swings in gentle, hypnotic fashion.
Overall, a curates egg as far as the harp stuff goes, but a fascinating glimpse as to how Alice pursued her late husband's jazz message and kind of essential for Coltrane completists. The average jazz collector is better advised however to look to Impulse's John Coltrane reissues for more essential purchases.
(courtesy of BIRDpages website)