Real Gone Music has just announced its first release for this September and it should be of substantial interest to jazz aficionados: a collection of Alice Coltrane’s studio recordings for Warner Bros. from the mid to late 1970s. The 2-CD set, Spiritual Eternal – The Complete Warner Bros. Studio Recordings, is scheduled to be released on September 7.
Coltrane was born Alice McLeod in Alabama in 1937, but grew up in Detroit. She studied music and played a number of instruments, including the piano and harp. She decided to take up jazz and began to perform professionally. She first met John Coltrane in 1962-63 when she was a member of Terry Gibbs’ quartet. She and Coltrane wed in 1965; it was the second marriage for each. In 1966, she became the pianist in John’s group and played with him until his death in July, 1967. Among the recordings she performed on during this period is the acclaimed A Love Supreme. Following John’s passing, Alice began a solo career, kicking off with the album A Monastic Trio later in 1967. Her albums were released on John’s last label, Impulse!, through the early 1970s. As her solo career progressed, her music began to take on a more spiritual flavor. Amid some upheaval at Impulse!’s then-parent company, ABC, Coltrane was lured to Warner Bros. in 1975, where she would record three studio albums (and a live album not included on this compilation).
Though it is difficult to characterize the music of Coltrane’s Warner Bros. period, several things hold true throughout the three records, recorded from 1975 to 1977 with Ed Michel as producer. The first is that Alice’s instrument of choice was increasingly the Wurlitzer organ, which she had begun to use at Impulse!. The second is that these albums reflect the increasing importance of Coltrane’s religious studies in her life. In 1968, Coltrane met Swami Satchidananda Saraswati, an Indian spiritual guru and yoga adept, and began to study with him and write and record music dedicated to him. By 1975, she was leading weekly ashrams devoted to traditional Hindi chants, and the music and participants in those services began to filter into the albums she recorded for Warner Bros. Thus, while 1976’s Eternity, her debut album for the label, employed professional vocalists and well-known jazz musicians like Charlie Haden, Ben Riley, and Hubert Laws (with a cameo from Carlos Santana), her next record, 1977’s Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana (the title itself offering praise in Sanskrit of the male and female aspects of Krishna), featured members of Coltrane’s growing ashram–singing, clapping the rhythm, picking up or slowing down the tempo depending on the arrangement.
Her last album for Warner Bros., Transcendence, also from 1977, furthered the transition; here, Coltrane (now going by the name Turiyasangitananda or Turiya for short) incorporated full-fledged lead vocalists from the ashram into her music, adding a distinct African-American gospel vibe to the proceedings. These tracks were to prove the template for the four purely devotional albums she released from her ashram in the years following her Warner stint. Transcendence also proved to be the last commercial studio recordings she made until 2004’s Translinear Light on Verve. That would also be Alice’s final album. She passed away in 2007.
Real Gone’s new 2-CD set is presented in a six-panel digipak. The booklet features an essay by noted Coltrane scholar Ashley Kahn and draws upon interviews with producer Ed Michel and engineer Baker Bigsby. The book also features rare photos. The set has been produced with the full cooperation of the Coltrane estate by Real Gone co-founder Gordon Anderson and jazz reissue producer Zev Feldman, who produced the 2014 John Coltrane reissue Offering – Live at Temple University for Resonance Records. The reissue has been remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision, and designed by John Sellards, whose work can be seen on numerous Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music releases.
If you would like to revisit Alice Coltrane’s fasincating Warner Bros. output, we’ve got the full tracklisting and preorder links for the set due on September 7!
Alice Coltrane, Spiritual Eternal – The Complete Warner Bros. Studio Recordings (Real Gone Music, 2018) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Links TBD)
- Spiritual Eternal
- Wisdom Eye
- Los Caballos
- Om Supreme
- Morning Worship
- Spring Rounds
- Govinda Jai Jai
- Prema Muditha
- Hare Krishna
- Om Namah Sivaya
- Vrindavana Sanchara
- Ghana Nila
- Bhaja Govindam
- Sri Nrsimha
CD 1, Tracks 1-6 from Eternity, Warner Bros. Records LP BS 2916, 1976
CD 1, Tracks 7-10 and CD 2, Track 1 from Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana, Warner Bros. Records LP 2986, 1977
CD 2, Tracks 2-8 from Transcendence, Warner Bros. Records LP BS 3077, 1977