Alice Coltrane died today at age 69. An obituary can be found online here. I hope there will be more information and tributes available tomorrow.
John Coltrane’s late-period music is profoundly important to me and Alice’s piano (and sometimes harp) playing is an integral element of its beauty and meaning. After John’s death in 1967, Alice went on to record a bunch of wonderful records for Impulse! including A Monastic Trio (1968), Ptah, The El Daoud (1970), Journey in Satchidananda (1970), and Universal Consciousness (1971). All of these records are readily available on nicely re-mastered CDs that are well worth hearing. In fact, I am listening to them all in chronological order as write this and they are all truly sublime.
I’m a lot less familiar with the Warner Bros. albums she made after that. I believe some of this stuff has been reissued recently and I intend to check it out.
Eventually, Alice Coltrane’s spiritual journey led her away from the commercial music world to form an ashram in California. The music that Alice Coltrane would perform in this period was purely devotional and made available only to initiates. Through my step-mother-in-law, Katie Atherton, I have a cassette tape of some of this music and it is beautiful, but strictly functional music for religious ceremony. I think I’ll dig that tape out and listen to it again. It would be interesting to further explore this “non-public” portion of Ms. Coltrane’s oeuvre.
After a 26 year long hiatus, Alice Coltrane returned to Impulse! with 2004’s Translinear Light. I would look at it at the record store, but I never bothered to pick it up - I’d read reviews that said it was a little “smooth” compared to her 70s records – but it was nice to know she was again making music, now with her sons Ravi and Avram Coltrane. I am now, belatedly, going to seek it out.
Music – art – aspires to immortality. While the artist passes away from this world, their work remains behind so that others may know that such transcendence is possible. I look forward to devoting some time to Alice Coltrane’s art and thereby celebrate her life.