Show #140: Spiritual Jazz: The Roots

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<!-- missing image -->Tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington has been getting a lot of attention for his Wagnerian-sized 3 cd set, The Epic. He is drawing a different audience among young people who maybe weren’t even that into jazz…his appeal is something different, and harkens back to other trendsetters back in the 1960s and 1970s, musicians that Washington’s young audience might have missed out on.

I’ll call it Spiritual Jazz, and that is what today’s show is about.

We begin with Leon Thomas, who took Coltrane’s message and put it to music originally penned by Pharoah Sanders, “The Creator has a Master Plan“.  After that it’s Coltrane himself, with the first part of his 4 part 1964 masterpiece, A Love Supreme. Then we hear his late wife Alice Coltrane, from a 1970’s classic, Huntington Ashram Monastery, a reference to their home in rural New York, where Coltrane conceived A Love Supreme.

Pharoah Sanders is next, another tenor player who worked with Coltrane and inspired many young sax players. He recorded the song “Heart is a Melody” at Todd Barkan’s long-running Berkeley club, The Keystone Korner, in the 1980’s.

Another great tenor sax player in the Coltrane mode, Azar Lawrence, is next, the title cut from a 1974 lp, Bridge into the New Age. He is one of the finest tenor players today, and hearing him live, as I did in the now-defunct Venice jazz spot the RG club, was as close as I ever got to hearing Coltrane, the man himself. Azar has fairly regular gigs in Long Beach, Calif. these days.

We feature Doug and Jean Carn next, from a classic Black Jazz 1970’s lp, Revelation. Then we bookend the show with another Pharoah Sanders song, again sung by Leon Thomas.

Anybody who has shown interest in Kamasi Washington’s work should know that he, too, stands on the shoulders of giants, some of whom are still alive and well and performing.  The musicians here have helped keep Coltrane’s legacy alive, and I want to give them their due.

P.S.  I should also have included Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin’s 1973 Columbia album Love Devotion Surrender here.  It’s available on cd and fits right in.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 1/8/16

  1. Leon Thomas / The Creator Has A Master Plan (Peace) / “Leon Thomas Anthology” / Soul Brother
  2. John Coltrane / Acknowledgement / “A Love Supreme” / Impulse!
  3. Alice Coltrane / Turiya / “Huntington Ashra Monastery” / Impulse!
  4. Pharoah Sanders / Heart Is A Melody Of Time / “Heart Is A Melody” / Evidence
  5. Azar Lawrence / Bridge Into The New Age / “Bridge Into The New Age” / Prestige
  6. Doug Carn / Time Is Running Out (Feat. Jean Carn, VCLS) / “Revelation” / Black Jazz Records
  7. Leon Thomas / Prince Of Peace / “Leon Thomas Anthology” / Soul Brother