Sunday, 14 January 2007

R.I.P. Alice Coltrane/Michael Brecker

There are several things buzzing round my head at that moment which I will organise into coherent posts in the next few weeks. Coming up, gig reviews of Wayne Shorter and Evan Parker, thoughts on the state of jazz today, on the blues, and on free improv. But as there are only at an early stage of development so far, a brief post which I didn't want to have to write, but which has been created by circumstances.

It's not official yet, and that gives us hope that's it not actually true, but I've just heard today that Alice Coltrane, widow of John Coltrane and musical experimenter herself, has died at the age of 69. (Source - She leaves a son, Ravi, who, like his father, is a saxophonist, and, like his father, performed with Alice on several occasions. Presumably he will now be in charge of the Coltrane estate, and so, you never know, we might see some more the release of more rare recordings that Alice was sitting on. However, that's not really the point - we should be remembering the recordings Alice made as part of the late John Coltrane groups, on 'Live in Japan', 'Expression', and the like, and under her own name on the Impulse label - 'World Galaxy', 'Journey in Satchidananda', 'Universal Consciousness', etc. Noted for her performances on piano, organ and harp, and her lush yet surprisingly tough string arrangements, influenced in equal measure by Stravinsky and eastern music, she doesn't really sound like anyone else, and, though she never really achieved a high level of fame, she was something of a cult favourite among fans of "out" music.
I must admit that, though I've been listening to quite a bit of her music in recent weeks, I'm still not convinced by a lot of her music, but at least she wasn't afraid to experiment and was certainly an original voice. And she was one of the few widely-known women in jazz who wasn't a singer, which is something.

While in the middle of writing this post, news of another jazz death came onto my radar: this time, saxophonist Michael Brecker, famous for his recordings with brother trumpeter Randy Brecker as 'the Brecker brothers', with Billy Cobham in the fusion band 'Dreams', and for much other esteemed work as leader and sideman in more straightahead jazz fields. The writer of this article from the New York times ( puts it better than I could:

His tone was strong and focused, and some of his recognizable language echoed Coltrane’s sound. But having worked in pop, where a solo must be strong and to the point, Mr. Brecker was above all a condenser of exciting devices into short spaces. He could fold the full pitch range of the horn into a short solo, from altissimo to the lowest notes, and connect rarefied ideas to the rich, soulful phrasing of saxophonists like Junior Walker.

I am sure blogs will be buzzing with more news and MP3 samples of these 2 artists as we get more details on the tragic news over the next few days, but for now, I'll just say

R.I.P. Michael and Alice.

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