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Fri, 08.27.1937

Alice Coltrane had a jazz voice of her own

Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane was born on this date in 1937. She was a Black pianist, organist, harpist, and composer.

Born Alice McLeod in Detroit, she was raised in a religious family, the daughter of Solon and Anne McLeod. She began studying music at age seven.

Not only did she study jazz with Bud Powell, but she also worked in classical and church environments.  After performing with Kenny Burrell, Johnny Griffin, Lucky Thompson, and Yusef Lateef, she toured and recorded with Terry Gibbs in the early 1960s.

It was at that time when she met her future husband, John Coltrane, and a year after their marriage in 1965, she replaced McCoy Tyner in his group. She played piano with his group from 1965 until his death in 1967, and married John in 1966, he became a step-father to Alice's daughter Miki, and they also had three children of their own: drummer John Jr., and saxophonists Oran and Ravi. John Jr. died in a car crash at the beginning of the 1980s.

Alice Coltrane's contribution to their innovative sound is most evident on the four-disc "Live In Japan."  She led her own groups and supported strong performances from Joe Henderson, Pharoah Sanders, and Rashied Ali. During the 1960s, Coltrane was one of the most remarkable pianists of the free-jazz movement. Although her musical accomplishments are often recalled in the shadow of her legendary husband, reissues of her best work shed light on her own right to be heard.

When her husband died, Coltrane became a fierce guardian of his vast musical estate.  She was also left with the task of raising their four children. She continued with a string of well-received albums, but left the jazz world in 1978.

Another reason for Coltrane's lack of recognition from critics and scholars has been her focus on spiritual pursuits. She founded the Vedantic Center, a base for studying Eastern religions, in California.  Her first album under her name (1967) was "A Monastic Trio," was greeted with critical praise. Her last recording, "Translinear Light," came out in 2004. On January 12, 2007, Alice Coltrane died of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in suburban Los Angeles. Reportedly she had been in frail health for some time prior to her death.

Reference: Alice Coltrane

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