TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone talks Alice Coltrane, Sunday's tribute concert
Looking over the lineup for UCLA Live's tribute to Alice Coltrane concert this Sunday reads like a sort of international supergroup of jazz and improvised music.
Among those scheduled to perform are direct connections with the influential composer, like the piano great and her husband's former sideman McCoy Tyner and instrumental hip-hop visionary Flying Lotus (who's also Coltrane's great-nephew), along with free jazz artists who followed in her footsteps such as saxophonist Daniel Carter, Dutch drummer Han Bennink and L.A.'s restless guitar adventurer Nels Cline. In keeping with Coltrane's legacy, exploration and possibility should fill Royce Hall and sparks, inevitably, will fly.
Acting as a ringmaster of sorts for the evening is Kyp Malone, guitarist-vocalist for the great indie rock band TV on the Radio as well as his own project Rain Machine, which released an album last year on Anti- Records. Malone teamed with producer Ian Brennan to assemble the concert's lineup, and speaking by phone from New York City, he talked about the show and the impact Coltane's music had on his life.
What inspired you to pull together this tribute concert?
I would say it stemmed from conversations I had with my friend Ian Brennan ... he heard me talk positively about Alice Coltrane’s music in the past both in conversation and in interviews. I feel like it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t have been the kind of person who likes to do that kind of thing.
How did you both pull together the lineup?
We originally intended it to happen last spring and it fell through because of funding issues, and some of the people that we had on board were harder to convince to get back on board this time around. Ultimately if I had the time and the resources to invite as many people as I could who I knew personally or whose music I’m aware of who are working in the same vein as Alice Coltrane’s work -- which is to say spiritual music -- it could be a festival, it could be multiple nights.
There’s a lot of people who I wanted but I couldn’t make it happen, but that being said I feel the lineup is the lineup that it’s supposed to be.
When did you first discover Alice Coltrane's music?
I don’t know, I’m fairly certain that my parents had a copy of “Journey Into Satchidananda” ... they had a lot of Impulse! records and a lot of stuff from that time period, it was part of the fabric. But I think I started consciously listening to it by choice in the '90s. I was living in San Francisco and I spent all my tips on records, the search for original pressings was only surpassed by the amount of reissues that were happening at that time. I was really getting into that era –- the early '70s, late '60s stuff. I’m not by any stretch a Coltrane scholar or anything, but I really like her music. I really like where she went with it and where it takes me, you know?
What was it about her music that pulled you into her compositions?
I don’t know how to talk about it besides to say that there is definitely a simplicity to a lot of the stuff that she played and offered to listeners. But within that simplicity I feel like it truly has a power of transformation and transcendence in it, for me as a listener. I never had the opportunity to see her perform live, but the live recordings that I’ve heard are especially powerful. There’s a live recording from like '79 or something, it’s a two-disc recording called “Transfiguration” (ed. note: which was recorded at UCLA) and that first track, I remember the first time listening to that I felt like I was taken out of myself. I’m not speaking metaphorically, I literally felt like I was taken out of myself.
Music, if you’re open to it (and it to you), it has that power. It all has potential magic to it, but the feeling I had was rare for me, to feel like I was having like an overtly spiritual experience. She’s an inspiring figure.
What can we expect for how Sunday's show is going to be structured?
Well, there’s going to be some solo performances, some collaborative performances and then some group performances. I’m looking forward to the fact I get to play with someone who has been an inspiration for me musically, Nels Cline. I’ve never met him face-to-face and we’re going to play on Sunday. I know that I’m playing with my friend Ryan Sawyer and Brooke Gillespie and we’re working on a piece that is staying fairly true to one of her songs yet at the same time there’s going to be a certain amount of improvisation, movement and exploration inside of that. So I don’t know where everyone is coming at it from, but I’m very excited.
-- Chris Barton
Alice Coltrane Tribute, Royce Hall, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Ave., L.A. 7 p.m. Sunday. $28-$48. (310) 825-2101.
Photo of Kyp Malone by Eric Martin.