Alice Coltrane's first studio effort in more than two decades is as momentous as it should be. Work began on Translinear Light in April 2000, when producer/saxophonist Ravi Coltrane gathered in Hollywood with his mother, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette and recorded three tracks. Fast-forward to February of this year, when the same band reconvened and logged three more. Finally, in April, mother and son recruited James Genus and Jeff "Tain" Watts and waxed another two. With the addition of two duos and a concluding vocal piece, the album was complete.
Translinear Light channels the raw magic of Alice Coltrane's classic early albums without recapitulating old ideas. There is a relevance and sonic freshness in her Wurlitzer organ, her synthesizer, her piano. (Diehards might rue the absence of harp.) "Sita Ram," a traditional drone from 1971's Universal Consciousness, follows an entirely different structural path here. "Blue Nile," from 1970's Ptah the El Daoud, which originally featured Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson on alto flutes, gets an alternate rhythmic reading from "Tain" Watts. "Crescent," the first of two John Coltrane pieces, finds Alice C. sounding closer to Andrew Hill than McCoy Tyner. "Leo," from Interstellar Space, is a fiery workout that seems to establish a link between late Coltrane and early '70s Miles. The organ lines are simply nasty.
There are stirring new originals, including a soaring title track and a synth-driven ballad called "Jagadishwar." The two duos are "The Hymn," a synth and alto sax dialogue featuring the leader's youngest son, Oran; and "Triloka," a piano and bass meditation with Charlie Haden. As is her custom, Alice C. also offers arrangements of traditional songs, including the gospel-tinged "Walk With Me," the folky "This Train" and the chant "Satya Sai Isha," a three-minute departure with the Sai Anantam Ashram Singers, recorded in 2002.
Translinear Light is seamless, and wholly refreshing.