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World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1

World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1

In popular culture 'Coltrane' is usually shorthand for John, but to those who followed jazz along its wilder and more spiritual paths in the 70s, it always means Alice.

The remastered recordings on this new compilation, the first major release since Coltrane's passing in 2007, were made during a lesser known period of her life, when she retreated to the Sai Anantam Ashram that she’d built in 1983 and changed her name to Turiyasangitananda as part of her growing interest in Hinduism.

After recording landmark spiritual jazz records, like 1969's A Monastic Trio and 1971's Indian-influenced Journey in Satchidananda, Alice largely turned away from music during the 80s and 90s. The few recordings she did make were released privately on cassette to members of her ashram, and consist of devotional songs and mantric chants featuring the most minimal instrumentation of her career. Before now these recordings were only available as low-quality rips on obscure blogs.

In discarding the harp, at which she was virtuosic, and bringing synthesisers and her own voice into her music for the first time, Coltrane places herself in the lineage of the great American primitivists. Her penchant for extreme pitch bending lends 'Rama Rama' a disorientating swirl. We could be listening to her play the synth for the first time, mapping out its new possibilities. 'Om Shanti' is achingly beautiful, Coltrane accompanying herself on organ before being joined by a choir of her students.

As usual the compilers at Luaka Bop have done an expert job, peeling back layers of dust and tape hiss to allow these songs to sparkle like jewels. Later tracks like ‘Om Rama’ from 1995 find Coltrane conjuring sacred psychedelia worthy of The Boredoms, while ‘Journey to Satchidananda’ is a church organ epic, a solemn hymn for end times.