R.I.P. Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane died at age 69 today of respiratory failure. In addition to her work replacing McCoy Tyner in her husband's band, she also released numerous, underrated albums of her own, including projects with Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, and Carlos Santana. I love her harp work the most, though Alice was an accomplished pianist of course, as well as an organist and composer.
Some consider her a kind of Yoko One-like figure in her husband's life, turning John Coltrane away from more more accessible and melodic jazz toward increasingly spiritual and abstract projects. But that's bullshit, as he was already moving toward more and more progressive music already before she joined the group in 1965 (Impressions came out in '63, and A Love Supreme and Crescent came out in '64).
Her solo work is as much influenced by devotional music as it it is jazz. Alice Coltrane, or Turiyasangitananda, to use her Sanskrit name, was a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. Her latter years were devoted meditation and study, as well as preserving her husband's legacy. She released no new music between '87 and 2004, when Translinear Light came out, her final project, one completed with her son, Ravi Coltrane, on tenor.