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 Studios
Alice 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.
Note: Tracks 1 and 2 were previously released on the Alice Coltrane/John Coltrane release 'Cosmic Music'.
Note: Track 9 is a previously unissued recording from the sessions that resulted in John Coltrane’s release 'Expression'.


The CD reissue of Alice Coltrane's watershed first album after the death of her husband John has been repackaged -- and wonderfully remastered -- with an unreleased solo piano tune and two tracks from Cosmic Music added to the original album. In some cases a compendium wouldn't work, but all of it falls into place -- except for the solo "Altruvista" from 1967 at the end -- because of the chronological sequencing from January through June of 1968. There are three different sessions and two different bands at work on A Monastic Trio; the first is actually a quartet with Pharoah Sanders playing tenor, flute, and bass clarinet respectively on "Lord, Help Me to Be," "The Sun," and "Phnedaruth," with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Ben Riley on drums. The other five pieces are by a trio with Garrison and the fiery drummer Rashied Ali. Musically, the works here move from the deep bluesy modal structures that Alice Coltrane so loved in John's repertoire. Here she composes on the first three tunes for herself and Sanders. All of these works, with their deep Eastern tinges in the intervals juxtaposed against Western blues phrasing, are wondrously droning and emotional exercises. Sanders moves the music outside its frame of reference, adding his harmonic invention -- which is truly singular -- to Coltrane's blues-making, creating music that feels, anyway, as if it is somehow eternal. The five tracks with Ali and Garrison are more rooted in traditional soul-jazz and gospel themes, and made somehow exotic by the use of bells and Ali's underhanded, fluidly rolling drumming. Garrison could punch up any blues line and make it sing, and he does, especially on "Gospel Trane" and "Oceanic Beloved." "Altruvista" is an odd piece of improvisation based on whole-tone scales. It's quite beautiful and flows without a hint of forced emotion or mechanical intrusion. Really, it's a long cadenza, teetering on the edge of an abyss that thankfully never swallows it, and the perfect closer for an already fine album.

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 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)