Alice Coltrane :: Biography

As a child in Detroit, young Alice McLeod studied classical music and participated in the gospel band at church. But her brother, bassist Ernie Farrow, introduced her to jazz early on, and as a teen she became quite taken with bop and its offshoots.

Born August 27, 1937, in Detroit, Michigan, Alice McLeod studied classical music, and also jazz with Bud Powell in Paris, where she worked as the intermission pianist at the Blue Note Jazz Club in 1960. It was there that she was broadcast on French television in a performance with Lucky Thompson, Pierre 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 Kenny "Pancho" Hagood in 1960 and had a daughter with him. In 1962-63 she played with Terry Gibbs's quartet, during which time she met John Coltrane. In 1965 they were married in Juarez, Mexico. John Coltrane became stepfather to Alice's daughter Michele and the couple had three children: John Jr. (1964-1982), a drummer; Oranyan (born in 1967), a DJ who played saxophone with Santana for a period of time; and Ravi (born in 1965), a saxophonist.

In 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.

After her husband passed, Alice continued working with members of his last group, including Garrison, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and drummer Rashied Ali. Later when working her own group which often included her children, she started moving progressively into more meditative music.

She began playing the harp, utilizing sitar and tablas in the ensemble, and turning fully to Eastern cultures for inspiration; spiritual and colorful, her music morphed into the soundtrack for prayer. Her talents and trajectory spoke to others.

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. She 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.

Alice Coltrane died of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in suburban Los Angeles in 2007, aged 69. She is buried alongside John Coltrane in Pinelawn Memorial Park, Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York.

Selective Discography

A Monastic Trio (Impulse!, 1967)
Cosmic Music (Impulse!, 1966-68) with John Coltrane
Huntington Ashram Monastery (Impulse!, 1969)
Ptah, the El Daoud (Impulse!, 1970)
Journey in Satchidananda (Impulse!, 1970)
Universal Consciousness (Impulse!, 1971)
World Galaxy (Impulse!, 1972)
Lord of Lords (Impulse!, 1973)
Reflection on Creation and Space (a Five Year View)
(Impulse!, 1973; compilation)
Illuminations (Columbia, 1974) with Carlos Santana
Eternity (Warner Bros. Records, 1975)
Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana (Warner Bros. Records, 1976)
Transcendence (Warner Bros. Records, 1977)
Transfiguration (Warner Bros. Records, 1978)
Turiya Sings (Avatar Book Institute, 1982)
Divine Songs (Avatar Book Institute, 1987)
Infinite Chants (Avatar Book Institute, 1990)
Glorious Chants (Avatar Book Institute, 1995)
Priceless Jazz Collection (GRP, 1998; compilation)
Astral Meditations (Impulse!, 1999; compilation)
Translinear Light (Impulse!, 2004)
The Impulse Story (Impulse!, 2006; compilation)