Remembering Alice Coltrane: She Stood In Her Own Shadow

alicecoltrane2X  Trane painting

posted by Robert J. Carmack

For more than five decades, the Coltrane name remains at the forefront of modern music. It is lauded throughout the United States as well as internationally where it has received great acclaim. The musical offerings cover an eclectic variety of artistic expressions recorded on ABC ImpulseWarner Bros., and Impulse-Universal.

Alice Coltrane, (McLeod) August 27, 1937 – January 12, 2007

was an jazz pianistorganistharpist, and composer, and the second wife of jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. One of the few harpist in the history of jazz, she recorded many albums as a bandleader.

She graduated from high school with a scholarship to the Detroit Institute of Technology; however, her musical achievements began to echo throughout the city, to the extent that she played in many music halls, choirs and churches, for various occasions as weddings, funerals, and religious programs.  Her skills and abilities were highly enhanced when she began playing piano and organ for the gospel choir, and for the junior and senior choirs at her church.  In later years, she would further her musical attributes by including organ, harp and synthesizer to her accomplishments.

Alice McLeod studied classical music, and also jazz with Bud Powell in Paris, France, where she worked as the intermission pianist at the Blue Note Club in 1960. It was there that she was broadcast on French television in a performance with Lucky ThompsonPierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke .  She began playing jazz as a professional in Detroit, with her own trio and as a duo with vibist Terry Pollard. She married singer Kenny Hagood in 1960, and had a daughter with him (Michelle).

From 1962-63 she played with Terry Gibbs‘s quartet, during which time she met John Coltrane. In 1965 they were married in Juarez,Mexico. By January 1966, she replaced McCoy Tyner as pianist with John Coltrane’s group. She subsequently recorded with him and continued playing with the band until his death on July 17, 1967. Coltrane became stepfather to Alice’s daughter Michele and the couple had three children: John Jr. (1964–1982), a drummer; Oranyan (b. 1967), a DJ; and Ravi (b. 1965), a  grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist.  After her husband’s death ,she continued to play with her own groups, later including her children, moving into progressively more meditative music.  b& w alice coltrane harp

Coltrane was a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. In 1972, she moved to California, where she established the Vedantic Center in 1975.  By the late 1970s she had changed her name to Turiyasangitananda. Coltrane was the spiritual director, or swamini, of Shanti Anantam Ashram (later renamed Sai Anantam Ashram in Chumash Pradesh) which the Vedantic Center established in 1983 near Malibu, California.

On rare occasions, she continued to perform publicly under the name Alice Coltrane. The 1990s saw renewed interest in her work, which led to the release of the compilation Astral Meditations, and in 2004 she released her comeback album Translinear Light. Following a 25-year break from major public performances, she returned to the stage for three U.S. appearances in the fall of 2006, culminating on November 4 with a concert for the San Francisco Jazz Festival with her son Ravi, drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist Charlie Haden.

It proved to be her last major concert, in which ,this writer was in attendance. Alice Coltrane died of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in suburban Los Angeles, age 69. She is buried alongside her late husband John Coltrane, in Pine Lawn Memorial Park, FarmingdaleSuffolk County, New York.

alice Coltrane   ABC Impulse


A Monastic Trio
Huntington Ashram Monastery
Ptah, the El Daoud
Journey in Satchidananda ****

Universal Consciousness    ****     
World Galaxy
Lord of Lords
John Coltrane: Infinity
Reflection on Creation and Space
The Elements
Illuminations (with Carlos Santana)
Radha-Krisna Nama Sankirtana
Turiya Sings
Divine Songs

Infinite Chants
Glorious Chants
Translinear Light

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