Since its inception in 1988, David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop has made a concerted effort to bring lost and undiscovered music to light. In 2014, the label released one of its more popular compilations Who Is William Onyeabor? to critical acclaim. (Byrne himself, along with “The Atomic Bomb Band” even appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform a song from the collection.) On May 5th, Luaka Bop released its latest compilation, the first in a series of “World Spirituality Classics.” Titled The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, the eight-track album is an astutely curated compilation of songs recorded by Coltrane between 1982 and 1995.
Spiritual devotion became Coltrane’s central purpose in life in the four decades that followed the death of her husband, legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, in 1967. By 1983 she had established Sai Anantam Ashram on 48 acres of land outside of Los Angeles. There she recorded music, but released it only within her spiritual community. These recordings—specifically Turiya Sings, Divine Songs, Infinite Chants, and Glorious Chants—are the source for the music on The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda.
By working with Alice Coltrane’s children, Luaka Bop was able to find the original masters of the recordings, giving the label a deep well to pick songs from. The result is a compilation with a wide range of sounds. Not only does it offer her first recorded vocal work, the album features solo performances on her harp, small ensembles, and a 24-piece vocal choir. Vedic devotional songs were an inspiration for Coltrane, and their influence is clear on many of the songs. So, too, is the influence of bebop, blues and the spirituals of her Detroit youth clear on the record.
In an excerpt of the album’s liner notes published on Pitchfork, Alice and John Coltrane’s son, Oran, sums up his mother’s music perfectly: “The reason this music has that appeal, it transcends language. Somehow you hear the essence behind it….And when she put…her hands on the keyboard it was like somebody shooting a beam of light through your chest.”
Writer’s Note: In addition to contributing to The Manual, I work at a music promotion company, Distiller Promo, that is currently promoting World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda.
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