Alice Coltrane Day

August 27, 1937 – January 12, 2007

 

A tribute to Ms. Coltrane, who was more than just John Coltrane’s widow

Pianist, harpist and organist Alice MacLeod was born August 27, 1937 in Alabama; the exact town is not known.

She grew up in Detroit where her mother sang at her church’s choir and her half-brother Ernie Farrow was a bassist.

Alice studied music, played in Detroit-area clubs, and moved to Paris in the late 1950s where in 1960 she worked as the intermission pianist at the Blue Note jazz club.

She married singer Kenny “Pancho” Hagood in 1960 and they had a daughter (singer Michelle Coltrane) but the marriage did not last long.

Alice MacLeod moved back to Detroit for a time before joining the Terry Gibbs Quartet (1962-63); Gibbs introduced her to John Coltrane.

They were married in 1965 and had three children including saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.

When pianist McCoy Tyner left the John Coltrane Quartet, Ms. Coltrane took his place, working regularly with her husband until his death on July 17, 1967.

After she became a widow, Alice Coltrane worked as a pianist and harpist, releasing several notable albums through 1978.

By 1972, Coltrane had embraced Eastern religions (she would change her name to Turiyasangitananda) and she became very active in her ashram as its spiritual director.

In 2004 she released her first jazz album (Translinear Light) in over 25 years and she made a few concert and club appearances with her son Ravi before her death in 2007 at age 69.

This rare film clip features Alice Coltrane at the beginning of her career, playing a Bud Powell-inspired version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’n You” at the Blue Note in Paris on Jan. 9, 1960 with bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke.

-Scott Yanow

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