Thu February 1, 2007
A Tribute to Alice Coltrane on the Last Call
Wife of John Coltrane was spiritual master, keyboard and harp artist
By Chris Cooke
Omaha, Nebraska – Alice Coltrane, the jazz performer and composer who was forever linked with the legendary musical improvisations of her late husband, legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, died January 12th, 2007. She was 69.
Coltrane died at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in West Hills, California, according to an announcement from the family's publicist. She had been in frail health for some time and died of respiratory failure.
Alice Coltrane was internationally recognized as a gifted pianist and organist, as the pianist in her husband John Coltrane's final band and last recordings, as a pioneer on the harp in jazz, and for her own legacy of penetrating albums that continued the lineage of musical/spiritual exploration that John Coltrane began in his later recordings.
Alice Coltrane was the keeper of her husband's musical legacy for most of the last 40 years. Her husband, one of the pivotal figures in the history of jazz, died of liver disease July 17, 1967, at the age of 40.
She was also a spiritual leader. Alice Coltrane served as the swami of the San Fernando Valley's first Hindu temple, in Chatsworth, California. She also founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills, California.
Alice Coltrane's final recording was Translinear Light, her first recording in 26 years, since she withdrew from active performing and recording in the late '70s to open an ashram and devote herself primarily to spiritual pursuits.
Although Alice Coltrane retired from her career in music, she never stopped playing, and her music was an integral part of the services at the ashram and a major influence on the young Ravi Coltrane, who was not quite 2 years old when his famous father died. Ravi, with his mother's encouragement, started playing the saxophone in his early 20s and undertook a patient, diligent apprenticeship as a sideman. In recent years Ravi has attained a mastery of the instrument and worldwide critical acclaim as a leading voice on the saxophone.
In 1998, Alice Coltrane came out of retirement to perform in a special concert with her son at New York's Town Hall in 1998. This concert marked Ravi's coming of age as a musical force in his own right and showed Alice still at the peak of her formidable powers. Translinear Light was the realization of Ravi Coltrane's dream to record with his mother and to bring her art back to public recognition.
Alice Coltrane said about the record: "To the listening audience: At this time in history, I tried to share the light upon the greatness and Infinite Oneness of the humanity, the universe, and the vast Beyond. Within the light of this Oneness, the Supreme allows us to soar into the transcendental glories of divine Consciousness endowed with joy, peace, and love. - Very truly, Alice Coltrane."
Music from Alice Coltrane's Translinear Light and other recordings from the late keyboardist will be featured on the Last Call on Saturday night at 11pm on KIOS.
Chris Cooke is the host of Jazz in the Afternoon and Last Call on KIOS.