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Album Review: The Carnegie Hall Concert (Full review)
Alice Coltrane
Cover image of the album The Carnegie Hall Concert (Full review) by Alice Coltrane
The Carnegie Hall Concert (Full review)
Alice Coltrane
2024 / Impulse Records
79 minutes
Review by Steve Yip
Back in March I first wrote of the impending and awaited release of Alice Coltrane’s historic February 21, 1971 live performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The album dropped on March 22, 2024. In this review, I’m diving in for a fuller review of this historic musical capture.

In the first two numbers -- “Journey in Satchidananda” and “Shiva-Lova” -- the dreamy atmospherics of undulating waves giving way as the saxophonists intervene with crashes and shrieks punctuating in-sync with the rhythm section.

“Journey in Satchidananda” is “quiet”and meditative, and begins with a slight strikes of cymbals. It’s followed by bass and drums leading to the overlapping waves of Alice’s harp. Sanders comes in with a mournful flute as if in dialogue with a saxophone, and ends as quietly as it began. “Shiva-Loka” is equally mellow with the harp providing continuity with intersecting soprano saxophone interpretations. [Note: Satchidananda refers to her guru Swami Satchidananda and/or of “nature of reality”; while Shiva-Loka conceptually is a bit complex for me, but I interpret it’s possible meaning as “conscious world.”]

In the latter two numbers, both of which are John Coltrane compositions, transits away from the more meditative mode, Alice attacks the keys in “Africa” where the drums and saxophones take charge creating the sense of crashing ocean waves with gruntal calls and shrieks reflective of the struggles of a contingent subjugated. In between, a reflective bass solo intervenes with some audience responses. Then the saxophonists return with its grunts and shrieks coinciding with each other. “Leo” starts off with immediate, multi-instrumental intensity, and with fiery force greater than what was offered in “Africa”. Alice doesn’t fool around either with her presence on the piano. The drumming is showcased accompanied by many different percussive instruments before the saxophonic chaos enters the scene.

Overall, the first two numbers feature Alice Coltrane plucking the strings of the harp, an instrument whose origins can be traced back to the age of antiquity. The music vibrations produced usually are found in large orchestras performing European classical music. Some have described the sounds from a harp in concert as “simmering, bell-like with rich overtones.” Sometimes, if I hear harp sonics I immediately associate it with movies depiction of scene entrances of ancient Romans and Greeks!

As a band leader, pianist, and cultural pacesetter, Alice Coltrane is also one of the rare harp players in jazz music. Additionally as I wrote in March, “Alice captured a cadre of impressive personnel -- we are talking about musicians who are themselves pacesetters in jazz fusion...” So to hear such a lush synthesis of divergent sounds is certainly a different kind of experience when heavy weighted, all-star band comprising Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Jimmy Garrison, Cecil McBee, Ed Blackwell, Clifford Jarvis, Kumar Kramer, and Tulsi Reynolds are joined. The live album is available in multiple formats.

P.S. Oh, did I also mention that I discovered that this concert also featured Laura Nyro and The Rascals? The concert was produced by Sid Bernstein, who promoted the first Beatles concert in the US. Interesting...
May 15, 2024
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Cover image of the album The Carnegie Hall Concert by Alice Coltrane
Review by Steve Yip
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