Exposé Online banner

Alice Coltrane — Universal Consciousness
(Verve Impulse! 314 589 514-2, 1971/2002, CD)

by Mike McLatchey, Published 2018-09-06

Universal Consciousness Cover art

So if there is one quality that ties my various tastes in music together it would be the cosmic quality. It's a hard quality to define, but it's basically a brother/sisterhood of all beings, a sense of unity, a sense of the divine, something spiritual, unconditional love, something that speaks of the vastness of the Universe. It's painted by atmosphere and drone, with a huge sense of space. So I thought I'd start talking about some great cosmic jazz. Counting her collaboration with her husband John Coltrane, Universal Consciousness was harpist and pianist (and organist) Alice Coltrane's fifth release. She started her solo recordings rather introvertedly with A Monastic Trio and Huntington Ashram Monastery before really starting to open up her sound on Ptah, the El Douad. But really Universal Consciousness is something of a unique take on a lot of the time period's tendencies to fuse jazz with orchestration and strings, a tendency she would continue to follow with her next few albums. Universal Consciousness is profound in how it deals with duality, its relationship between moments of quiet meditative beauty and the wheeling cosmic fire in its freer moments. I'm not sure there was much like it at the time even in one of music's most fertile eras of fusing genres together. At times this even exits the boundaries of jazz with Terry Riley-esque organ and lush sweeps of harp. Alice is joined by several jazz luminaries here, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Clifford Jarvis, Jack DeJohnette and Rashied Ali sharing percussive duties. There's also a rather strong touch of Stravinsky in the midst. It's an incredible vision, like a conversation between mind and soul.

Filed under: Reissues, 2002 releases, 1971 recordings

Related artist(s): Jack DeJohnette, Alice Coltrane

Latest news

Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more

Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more

Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

Previously in Exposé...

The Mahavishnu Project - Return to the Emerald Beyond – Gregg Bendian and Company are back with another take on classic Mahavishnu material. While previous efforts have dealt entirely with that band’s first incarnation, due to (as they say) popular...  (2008) » Read more

Listen & discover

Print issues