Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Review: John Coltrane - Meditations

John Coltrane's 'Meditations' is the strongest of his Pharoah Sanders collaborative sessions – standing as a more musical and easier to digest experience than the perhaps more famous, and certainly more daunting and out-there controversial 'Ascension' – even if oddly it has remained a slightly more 'off the radar' release.

Five pieces make up the dense tapestry of powerful spirituality and strongly resonating emotional music, with the combination of piano, bass, two saxes and two drums (courtesy of new addition to the group, Rashied Ali) creating an intensity that stretches from the start to the very end of the record.

For those familiar with 'Tranes music from '66 to '67, the sprawling live jam feel of his concerts is absent here, with nothing outstaying its welcome by going on five minutes more than is necessary, and everything feeling the right side of both tight and passionate. Also, Sanders here is arguably at his best, with his screams and wails (and screeches) fitting into the mix better than anywhere else. Here they form an enhanced and even somewhat logical part of the intended spiritual playing, whereas other later blasts from the man tended to push everything just that little too far.

The last official recorded performance by the great quartet, if an augmented one, Coltrane would never again play with McCoy Tyner or Elvin Jones, instead keeping bassist Jimmy Garrison, Sanders and Ali, and recruiting second wife Alice to fill in on the piano stool. Anyone interested in the later stage of 'Tranes musical career, or in his partnership with second tenorist Sanders, would do well to check out this fine offering, and certainly anyone willing to take the plunge into his more overtly spiritual phase would be well-recommended to start here.


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