India & Africa: A Tribute To John Coltrane
Anthony Brown: drumset, percussion, conductor; Danny Bittker: baritone sax, contralto clarinet, soprano sax; Mark Izu: bass, sheng (Chinese mouth organ); Henry Hung: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Masaru Koga: soprano, tenor sax, shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute); Richard Lee: bass trombone; Melecio Magdaluyo: alto, tenor, soprano sax; Marcia Miget: flute, soprano, alto, tenor sax; Kenneth Nash: African, American and Asian percussion; Pushpa Oda: tambura (North Indian zither); Steve Oda: sarod (North Indian lute); Dana Pandey: tabla (North Indian drums); Glen Pearson: piano; Geechi Taylor: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Kathleen Torres: French Horn; Wayne Wallace: trombone
Anthony Brown’s Liner Notes to “India & Africa: A Tribute To John Coltrane”
The India & Africa project came about from my research for my chapters of the book, John Coltrane and Black America's Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music, newly published on Oxford University Press. From my immersion into Coltrane’s multi-movement extended works following his masterpiece recording, A Love Supreme in December 1964, I realized he was coalescing his spiritual and musical pursuits to create a universal sonic language that he hoped would help to heal the world. The book’s editor, Dr. Leonard Brown wrote this about Coltrane:
In 1957, after some bouts with drugs and alcohol, John had an experience that he described as follows: "I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life, In gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music."
From this time on, John set the course from which he would not deviate for the rest of his life. He spent time with Thelonious Monk in 1957, then returned to perform with Miles Davis for the next couple of years. In 1960, he formed a quartet featuring Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner and began recording and performing throughout the planet. His sound became famous worldwide and his music advanced into extended improvisations of high energy and intensity, and took on an increased spiritual significance.
In 1964, John recorded the album, A Love Supreme which was very spiritually oriented. His music became increasingly religious in nature, focusing on spiritual concepts of life from Africa and Asia as well as western Christianity.
For the remainder of his life, John continued to manifest musical creativity through the saxophones with a clear focus on religious and spiritual messages. Writing compositions such as Prayer and Affirmation, Om, Meditations, Compassion, and Dear Lord, John clearly lit the path for others to follow.
On July 17, 1967, John Coltrane died, but his musical heritage continues to live on. He is an example of the love, strength, and spirituality that exists within African-American culture and all humanity. His influence on musicians, regardless of instrument, spans generations and will continue to do so in times to come.
India and Africa figure largely as themes in Coltrane’s work. His first two LPs for his lasting record label, Impulse, provide clear documentation of his musical direction and some of the influences which charted his new universal music. On the recording, Live at the Village Vanguard (1961), Coltrane featuresIndia, an extended work showcasing an array of guest artists exploring musical modalities. His musical and spiritual quest was directed eastward through his encounter with the music and the master of the North Indian sitar, Ravi Shankar. From Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, Coltrane learned about musical traditions of West Africa, his ancestral homeland. Coltrane’s initial Impulse LP introduces Africa, another work featuring his extended improvisations.
During a 2003 interview with drummer Elvin Jones for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History program, Elvin emphasized how profoundly influential the group’s tour to Japan was for “Trane,” how he had acquired a shakuhachi and always played it, even while driving a car! When I first heard Living Space--the only recording on which Coltrane overdubs or multi-tracks himself playing a second (soprano) saxophone,--his heterophonic phrasings reminded me of Gagaku, the ancient music of the Japanese Imperial Court. Originally brought to Japan from China via Korea in the eighth century, Gagaku has been passed down through generations of musicians who are still performing the oldest orchestral musical tradition known on the planet. Gagaku’s origins are traced back to the ancient court music of India, China and later Korea, and its timeless qualities influenced my arrangement of Living Space.
In searching for collaborators for this project I contacted Zakir Hussain, with whom I have worked and recorded in Mark Izu’s group, Circle of Fire. He recommended tabla virtuoso Dana Pandey, his former student and collaborator, whose friend, sarodist Steve Oda contacted me about joining the project. Their very special musical talents, relationship and simpatico, particularly Steve’s influences from his former life as a jazz guitarist before hearing Coltrane performing India in New York in the early 1960s, are the centerpiece of India.
The Gypsy people, or as they preferred to be known as, Romani or Roma, trace their roots back to Northwestern India. With Olé, the musical journey to Andalusia in Southern Spain, the home of Flamenco, is yet another musical cultural hub of the Indian Diaspora portrayed by Coltrane.
For SUITE: AFRICA and the entire project, I feel truly fortunate to have maestro Kenneth Nash performing with African, American and Asian percussion. His experience with McCoy Tyner, Cannonball Adderley, Weather Report and a hundred other musical luminaries was indispensable to capturing the ethos of Coltrane in these proceedings. His solo, Exaltation, sets the mood for a travelogue that begins with the Mother continent in focus, then journeys to Liberia, on to celebrate a Dahomey Dance, all before bringing things full circle.
This live recording of India & Africa is of the Asian American Orchestra’s performance at Yoshi’s Oakland on April 21, 2010; Exaltation was recorded at Yoshi’s San Francisco at our premiere of India & Africa on Trane’s 83rd birthday, September 23, 2009. There are a few audio imperfections in the recording, but I hope that you can overlook them and enjoy the show!
— Anthony Brown, Ph.D.
Conceived by Anthony Brown. Arranged by Anthony Brown and Jim Norton
Afro Blue arranged by Wayne Wallace, composed by Mongo Santamaria (Mongo Music, BMI); Exaltation composed by Kenneth Nash (Kenade Music, BMI); Percussion Discussion composed by Anthony Brown & Kenneth Nash (Nikoku Music, ASCAP/Kenade Music, BMI). All other music composed by John Coltrane (Jowcol Music, BMI).
Live sound and recording engineer: Lee Brenkman; Mastering engineer: Tardon Feathered; Cover art concept: Anthony Brown; Graphic art: David Barker; Photos: Bob Hsiang; Cover photographs: Andy Nozaka (Coltrane photo, January 1966, Stanford University; AAOrchestra photo, Yoshi’s, September 2009.
My heartfelt gratitude to all of the musicians who collaborated on India & Africa, and especially to my family who contributed immeasurably to its completion. Domo arigato to Yoshi-san and Kaz of Yoshi’s, and to Jason Olaine, Peter Williams and the staffs and crews at Yoshi’s SF and Oakland. A special thank you to Lee Brenkman, Terri Hinte, David Barker, Andy Nozaka, Bob Hsiang, Kathy Sloane, Tracy Collins, Drs. Leonard Brown, Olly Wilson, Tommy Lott, Herman Gray and Emmett Price III, Ken Kimery, Bill Bennett, George Yoshida, Karen Kai, Bob Rusky, Suzanne Ryan, Chuck Robinson, Quinn Associates, Rosa Parks Elementary School, SF, and to Martha, My Dear.
India & Africa was made possible with support from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Zellerbach Family Fund