John Coltrane - The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording (2001), 6/10

Very rarely does a recording’s sound quality firmly hinder its expression or effect, but this is truly the case for The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording. The sound quality is so poor, in fact, that Alice Coltrane and Garrison are barely audible for entire sections of the album. This is legitimately a shame, as when we can indeed hear Coltrane’s piano especially, it is dynamic and forceful. This low fidelity sound actually works for many sections of “Ogunde” but unfortunately is a major hinderance to “My Favorite Things”. Despite its departure from the source material, it would benefit from a more subdued or temperate sound quality, even in a studio setting. The importance and poetic nature of the recording is not lost on me and truly adds to the allure of the album when paired with such colossal and vehemently fiery free jazz. This could, however, only be aided by a more holistic sound and aural nuance, as present on Impressions or Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard, especially on piece like “My Favorite Things”. Still, Trane and Pharoah Sanders are clearly consumed by their passionate improvisations and have a shared luster and intensity that combine to great effect. All of this without even mentioning Rashied Ali’s masterclass in free percussion, this is one of the most violently beautiful instances of such that you can hear. There is a certain indefinable charisma to Coltrane and Sander’s saxophone playing here that morphs into something like a festival of spiritual pride. Their connection, and that of the band as a unit, is magnificent and fascinating, which again makes the way it was recorded and captured, losing much of its character, honestly a tragedy. I can’t say that there is a more wonderfully savage instance of live recording, free jazz or not, but its lost potential is disheartening. Still, the record is a powerhouse of improvisation and brimming with violent passion.