Alice Coltrane died
Alice Coltrane, the jazz performer who was linked with the adventurous musical improvisations of her late husband, legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, has died of respiratory failure Friday, January 12 at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in West Hills. She was 69. Though known to many for her contributions to jazz and early New Age music, Coltrane, a convert to Hinduism, was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills. A guru of growing repute, she also served as the swami of the San Fernando Valley's first Hindu temple, in Chatsworth.
For much of the last nearly 40 years, she was also the keeper of her husband's musical legacy, managing his archive and estate.
A pianist and organist Alice Coltrane was born Alice McLeod on Aug. 27, 1937 and raised in the religious family of Solon and Anne McLeod in Detroit, Michigan. Alice became interested in music and began her study of the piano at the age of seven. She consistently and diligently practiced and studied classical music. Subsequently, she enrolled in a more advanced study of the music of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Tschaikowsky. She once said: "Classical music for me, was an extensive, technical study for many years. At that time, I discovered it to be a truly profound music with a highly intellectual ambiance. I will always appreciate it with a kind remembrance and great esteem. Subsequent to the completion of her studies, she said, "The classical artist must respectfully recreate the composer's meaning. Although, with jazz music, you are allowed to develop your own creativity, improvisation and expression. This greatly inspires me."
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.
After moving to New York in the early sixties, Alice met and married John Coltrane, the great creator of avant-garde music and genius and master of the tenor and soprano saxophones. His parents were very spiritual, and dedicated to service in the church in which his father faithfully served. John's mother, Mrs. Alice Coltrane, Sr., was a fine singer. He was blessed to have them as his parents.
The innovative, futuristic sounds of the Coltrane musical heritage have set a new pace for modern music that sounded the unstruck chord throughout the world. She played piano with his group from 1965 until his death in 1967, and married him in 1966. In addition to John becoming step-father to Alice's daughter Miki, they had three children: drummer John Jr., and saxophonists Oran and Ravi. John Jr. died in a car crash at the beginning of the 1980s.
After her husband's death she continued to play with her own groups, moving into more and more meditative music, and later playing with her children. She was one of the few harpists in the history of jazz. In the early 1970s, after years of involvement with Eastern religion, Coltrane took the name Swamini Turiyasangitananda. She was a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. She continued to perform under the name Alice Coltrane, however.
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