Alice Coltrane: The Carnegie Hall Concert (Impulse!) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024  

Alice Coltrane

The Carnegie Hall Concert


Jun 06, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

There are some records, even enjoyable ones, that can almost feel like a chore to review, either because it’s hard to penetrate their essence or because it’s difficult to find things to say about them, but this is most definitely not one of those cases. In other words, it feels like an incredible honor and privilege to finally hear an officially released, full version of this 1971 concert, which Impulse! initially refused to release at the time of its recording and which thus sat on the shelf for over 50 years.

On this recording, Alice Coltrane leads a double quartet (similar to Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz double quartet or the double quartet on Miles Davis’ similarly groundbreaking jazz fusion double album, Bitches’ Brew). It features bassists Cecil McBee and Jimmy Garrison alongside drummers Clifford Jarvis and Ed Blackwell anchoring Coltrane (known as Turiya then) herself on piano alongside saxophonists Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders (one saxophonist per channel while Sanders was also on flute here).

To complete the band, percussionist Tulsi Reynolds and harmonium player Kumar Kramer were also present, but due to not having enough microphones on stage, they weren’t captured as clearly as the other instruments. Furthermore, due to the limitations of the source material (with the master tape long lost, a “reference mix” of the concert masters made by producer Ed Michel was the source for this release), audiophiles may be disappointed, but let’s put this into perspective.

First off, this is the first official release of this material ever. In addition to a double album gatefold, there is also a lengthy booklet featuring interviews with Michel and liner notes by writer Lauren deGraf. And last, and most certainly not least, the music on here is phenomenal.

Coltane was playing Carnegie Hall (for the second time as her first appearance there was in 1968) at the height of her powers. It was just weeks after the release of her album landmark album, Journey in Satchidananda, and also shortly after a five-week spiritual journey to India. The concert starts with two of her compositions, Journey in Satchadanada’s title track and the album’s “Shiva-Loka,” both which take up whole sides of the first LP. On these cuts, the basses of McBee and Garrison sound so lively that it’s like a pleasurable punch in the face.

On the second LP, she pays tribute to her late husband John Coltrane on “Africa” and “Leo” (which wasn’t even released officially until 1972), and on these, which also take up a side each, the band REALLY cooks. Sanders and Shepp in particular are on absolute fire here, with some of the former’s best performances ever with Alice, and it must be heard to be believed. One can only imagine the reactions of those who attended the concert to see Laura Nyro or The Rascals, who were also on the bill.

This is also the inaugural release of the “Year of Alice” and more reissues and archival recordings like this are in the works. Bring them all on! (

Author rating: 9/10

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