Twenty-seventeen marks a number of anniversaries of solemn significance for the Coltrane family. It’s been 50 years since John died and 10 since Alice Coltrane left her body, as members of her spiritual flock in Agoura Hills, Calif., refer to her passing. Were she alive, she’d be celebrating her 80th birthday this year, and this May, the Luaka Bop label will release World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, an anthology of the devotional music she created in the 1980s and ’90s with, and largely for, the members of the Vedantic ashram she founded. (Full disclosure: I wrote the collection’s liner notes.)
Turiyasangitananda Alice Coltrane was a musical and spiritual force of depth and remarkable dedication, a woman who, at the young age of 30 in 1967, became John Coltrane’s widow, left alone with four children and the weight of one of the heaviest names in the jazz world. What she became and achieved from that point forward is now legend: a popular jazz headliner with a long-running performing career of her own; the creator of 14 recordings as a leader featuring unique stylistic hybrids of jazz, blues and gospel, with traditional Indian, Vedic and other Hindu musical forms; a mother and swamini to whom hundreds looked for serenity, wisdom and guidance.