Coltrane, Alice (MacLeod; aka Sagitananda Turiya)

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Coltrane, Alice (MacLeod; aka Sagitananda Turiya)

Coltrane, Alice (MacLeod; aka Sagitananda Turiya), avant-garde jazz pianist, organist, harpist; wife of John Coltrane and mother of Ravi Coltrane; b. Detroit, Mich., Aug. 27, 1937. She was the fifth of six children. Her mother, Anne Johnston, played piano and sang in a church choir. Alice began the piano at age seven, and her early idol was Terry Pollard. Alice’s half-brother, Ernie Farrow, was an accomplished bassist who played with and encouraged the young Alice as she progressed. She played at churches in Detroit and studied classical music in N.Y. for a bit. She went to Europe (1959), and while in Paris she spent some time with Bud Powell, another major influence. She also played with Lucky Thompson and Oscar Pettiford. She married the singer Kenny “Pancho” Ha-good overseas, and they had a daughter, Michelle (b. 1960). After that marriage broke up, Alice returned to Detroit with her daughter. Around 1962, she was performing around Detroit in a cooperatively led group with Farrow and George Goldsmith, George Bohannon, and Bennie Maupin, as well as freelancing on vibraphone and “organa” (probably a small portable organ), even adding background vocals as needed for hotel lounge acts. She worked and made her first recordings with the Terry Gibbs quartet (1963). She met John Coltrane when Gibbs shared the bill with him at N.Y.’s Birdland (July 1963). She began traveling with Coltrane and that fall they lived together. John W. Coltrane Jr., was born to them on Aug. 26, 1964; Ravi John Coltrane was born Aug. 6, 1965. They went to Mexico around Aug. 1966 and John obtained in one day a divorce from his wife Naima, and a marriage to Alice. Soon after, they moved to Long Island, N.Y., where Oranyan Olabisi Coltrane, was born on March 19, 1967. From the end of 1965, Alice replaced McCoy Tyner in the Coltrane quartet.

After John’s death, Alice lived for a while in Engle-wood, N.J., and continued to perform and record. Her groups included Rashied Ali, Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, and later Ben Riley, Vishnu Wood or Reggie Workman, and Frank Lowe. She supervised the release of John’s unissued work, although she drew some criticism for overdubbing strings onto his tapes to produce Cosmic Music. She worked with Archie Shepp and Omette Coleman, who was responsible for the transcription of music on Universal Consciousness. Wood claims to have introduced her to the Swami Satchidan-anda when he visited the U.S. around 1970. She became an advanced disciple, converted to Hinduism, and visited shrines in India and Sri Lanka. In the early 1970s, she continued to perform, sometimes with string ensembles including violinists Leroy Jenkins, John Blair, and cellist Calo Scott. She performed during the first John Coltrane festival in Los Angeles, which she began in 1987, but now she only helps direct the festival and rarely performs. She was known for a time as Turiya Aparna, and since she became a teacher herself she has been known as Sangitananda Turiya (also written as one word instead of two). Around 1975, she founded the Vedantic Center, a religious retreat just west of Los Angeles. In 1978 she authored a “spiritual autobiography” entitled Monument Eternal, and she produced a regular half-hour spiritual program for a local Los Angeles TV channel, on which she played piano and read poems and prayers. In 1982 Alice Coltrane attempted to close the Church of John Coltrane in San

Francisco, with which she was initially connected, with a $7.5 million lawsuit; she charged that John would not have approved of the way in which they use his image and that they unlawfully using his name for profit, but the case was dismissed. Although she has performed only sporadically since the mid-1980s, she has continued to appear with her sons in special circumstances. Around 1993 there was a BBC program Rhythms of the World which centered on a collaboration between Don Cherry, L. Shankar, his wife Caroline, and Alice Coltrane. In 1998 she played a duet with her son Ravi at Town Hall, N.Y.


Monastic Trio (1968); Huntington Ashram Monastery (1969); Ptah the El Daoud (1970); Journey in Satchidananda (1970); World Galaxy (1971); Universal Consciousness (1971); Lord of Lords (1973); Eternity (1975); Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana (1976); Transcendence (1977); Transfiguration (1978).

—Lewis Porter