Detroit's classically-trained pianist and harpist Alice MacLeod (1937) married
John Coltrane in 1965 and replaced McCoy Tyner when he left in 1966.
After her husband's death and after converting to Hinduism (and adopting the new name Swamini Turiyasangitananda),
Alice Coltrane began her career as a leader with
A Monastic Trio (june 1968), a set that bridged
Eastern spirituality and blues-jazz sensibility in humble pieces such as
Ohnedaruth (by a quartet with Pharoah Sanders on bass clarinet)
and Gospel Trane (by a trio with bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Rashied Ali).
Her compositional and performing skills (both on piano and harp) blossomed on
Huntington Ashram Monastery (may 1969), by a
trio with bassist Ron Carter and Ali, especially in IHS, and led
to the kaleidoscopic 13-minute Ptah the El Daoud and the simple 16-minute Mantra of Ptah the El Daoud (january 1970), her artistic peak, featuring Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone and alto flute, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and alto flute, Ron Carter on bass and Ben Riley on drums. The limits of her piano playing (that basically transposed her harp technique to the keyboard) were more than compensated by her lyrical and agile writing.
The solos belonged to the jazz tradition, but the structure of the pieces
inaugurated a new form of music (predating ambient, world and new-age music).
Journey in Satchidananda (november 1970), featuring
Sanders (on soprano only) and volcanic rhythm section of bassist Cecil McBee and Ali plus tamboura and oud players, was another transcendent take on chamber world music, post-psychedelic droning and modal improvisation, from
Isis And Osiris (with Charlie Haden on bass and Alice Coltrane on harp)
to Something About John Coltrane (Alice Coltrane on piano).
Alice Coltrane had reached the other end of the spectrum, compared with her
husband's frenzied free-jazz, and the music was hardly jazz at all.
Universal Consciousness (june 1971) had pieces scored for harp, string section (four violinists including Leroy Jenkins) and a dreamy rhythm section of Garrison and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
The humanistic and cosmic element was now prevailing over the music itself, as in Galaxy in Turiya and Galaxy in Satchidananda on World Galaxy (november 1971).
The strings became even more important to render that ecstatic feeling on Lord of Lords (july 1972), whose Lord of Lords and Andromeda's Suffering contrasted the rhythm section of Haden and Riley with a string orchestra of violins, cellos and violas.
All in all, her key contribution to the history of jazz was an idea,
the idea that music serves the spiritual needs of the mind. Jazz as an art
of how to play instruments, or jazz as bodily entertainment was rapidly becoming
After a confused Eternity (october 1975), with a multitude of players,
she turned to devotional music, except the
live double-LP Transfiguration (april 1978), mostly in a trio with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Roy Haynes.
Alice Coltrane died in january 2007.
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