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Monastic Trio

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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews


Really special. One of the most underrated musicians of all time. The parts with her on piano, and a tambo player are awesome!


Born: August 27, 1937 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Alice Coltrane was an uncompromising pianist, composer and bandleader, who spent the majority of her life seeking spiritually in both music and her private life. Music ran in Alice Coltrane's family; her older brother was bassist Ernie Farrow, who in the '50s and '60s played in the bands of Barry Harris, Stan Getz, Terry Gibbs, and especially Yusef Lateef. Alice McLeod began studying classical music at the age of seven. She attended Detroit's Cass Technical High School with pianist Hugh Lawson and...
Full Bio