“Hi Yo, Stravinsky!”

Many years ago (50, by now?) in Mad, Dave Berg published one of his ‘The Lighter Side of’ cartoons showing two boys watching an orchestra on TV. The conductor tells his young audience, “We’re going to play The William Tell Overture. Let’s see how grown up you are — try to listen to it without thinking of the Lone Ranger,” and while they concentrate, the father, in sleeveless undershirt and carrying a beer can, enters the room shouting, “Hi yo, Silver!”

In a similar situation, the other night, I pulled Alice Coltrane’s Reflection on Creation and Space compilation (Impulse, 1973) off the shelf, a free copy I got to review back in those days and hadn’t listened to in living memory. Never was a fan of hers, but then again the album does include performances by, among others: Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Garrison, Charlie Hayden, Joe Henderson, Cecil McBee, and Pharoah Sanders.

Maybe after 40+ years, I thought, I might have evolved enough spiritually to enjoy the record. So I started listening to side four, and near the end realized that Alice, on this track with an orchestra, was playing something I actually recognized. It took a moment, but then I got it…Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.

Alice Coltrane was playing Emerson, Lake, & Palmer? That seemed hard to believe, so when the record ended I grabbed the jacket to check out the name of that last track: excerpts from Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Looks like I’m just as sophisticated as the dad in the Berg cartoon – I’d remembered the music because the group Yes (not ELP) used it, also back in 1973, to open their triple live album Yessongs.

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