Accra Trane Station: Meditations for John Coltrane

Accra Trane Station: Meditations for John Coltrane

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VoxLox CD, 2007  Release date: January 15, 2007

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From Ghana, a tribute to the 40th anniversary of John Coltrane's classic Meditations featuring multi- instrumentalists Nii Noi Nortey and Nii Otoo Annan.

Liner Note: ACCRA TRANE STATION Meditations for John Coltrane

Nii Otoo Annan and I first met Steven Feld, whom we call “Prof,” in 2004 during his first visit to Ghana. He came to my home in Accra to listen to us play and gave us some of his recordings. That afternoon we discovered that John Coltrane held a similar place in our hearts. Coltrane’s music moved us both as young men and has stayed with us throughout our lives as musicians and researchers into the powers of sound. I told Prof how happy I was to welcome a man from Philadelphia, John Coltrane’s city.

Prof recorded some of our music that afternoon. When the CD with his editing arrived back in Accra (later published on The Time of Bells, 3: Musical Bells of Accra, VoxLox 2005) I knew we would start to work together seriously. From there it didn’t take long to come up with the plan to pay African respects to John Coltrane on the 40th anniversaries of A Love Supreme and Meditations. Prof returned to Accra in 2005 and together with Agazi, a local engineer, we helped him fashion a home studio where we gathered regularly. By the last session we even managed to get Prof unhooked from his headphones to join us on the ashiwa, our box bass.

In 2006 Prof came back to Accra for a sustained visit, and having refined his ashiwa skills, we invited his full participation in our performances and recording sessions. When he departed for Europe some months later, Prof told us that he was taking the tracks to the studio of an old friend in Paris, someone whose ears we all could really trust. How true! Jean Schwarz, thank you for joining the band.

So now, across continents, Accra Trane Station offers you these Meditations as a song of praise and African homecoming, in humble acknowledgement of John Coltrane’s ongoing inspiration.

Nii Noi Nortey
Anyaa Arts Library
Accra, Ghana


“Where do you come from? Nii Noi asked.
“I’m from the USA, a place called Philadelphia.”
“Philadelphia?! Wow, the city of John Coltrane!” 
“You know his music?” 
“Know it?! It saved my life! (delivered with one of Nii Noi’s great belly laughs). Just look around. Coltrane’s pictures, albums, they’re all over my house. And check out my drummer! Can you believe how much he looks like Elvin Jones?!

Goose bumps came over me. It’s true. Nii Otoo Annan’s resemblance to Elvin is striking. And then, hearing the musical chemistry as he and Nii Noi played together, I knew that the Coltrane-Jones legacy was alive and well, and profound, in Accra.

That afternoon Nii Noi introduced me to his inventions, the afrifones, African reed and wind instruments modified with clarinet or saxophone mouthpieces. And as we came to know each other in the music, he invited me to come back to Ghana to join Accra Trane Station.

After recording together I wrote to Jean Schwarz about how this project joined Coltrane, Africa, and contemporary music. I knew he’d be the perfect studio collaborator. And with good reason: he studied jazz drumming with Kenny Clarke, has been engineer of the Musée de l’Homme world music series and the Le Chant du Monde “Jazz Treasure” compilations, and is a well-known composer of electro-acoustic music. Erda, one of my favorite of his compositions, includes a beautiful hommage to Coltrane.

Listeners familiar with the original Meditations will hear how Nii Noi opens this recording on alto sax with a transformation of the melody that John Coltrane titled “Love.” And that is really the best word to describe how this project has brought us all together, old and new friends from Accra, Philadelphia, and Paris, in the love of musical meditation for and with John Coltrane.

Steven Feld
Professor of Anthropology and Music
The University of New Mexico, USA

Meditations, 1
Nii Noi, alto saxophone; Nii Otoo, double gyili and cymbals; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 2
Nii Noi, gyili; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 3
Nii Noi bari afrifone, C flute; Nii Otoo, hi-hat and ashiwa (L); Prof, ashiwa (R)
Meditations, 4
Nii Noi, mbira njari; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 5
Nii Noi, alboita, soprano afrifone; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 6
Nii Noi, seperewa; Nii Otoo, gyili; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 7
Nii Noi, C flute; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 8
Nii Noi, gonje; Nii Otoo, molo; Prof, ashiwa
Meditations, 9
Nii Noi, bass afrifone; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa

Meditations, 1-9 were collectively composed in improvisation by Nii Noi Nortey, Nii Otoo Annan and Steven Feld. Each composition is presented as created, with no studio overdubs.



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