The world has begun to awaken to the long-underappreciated music of the late Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda: the wife of jazz legend John Coltrane, a spiritual leader, and a formidable musician in her own right. Behind the release of an excellent album earlier this year on David Byrne’s record label Luaka Bop, Alice’s unique and mesmerizing music is finally, deservedly being shared with a larger audience.
At the final show of this year’s inaugural Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles this past Sunday October 29, a tribute performance of her music was provided for a rapt audience, in an expansive open space on the 11th floor of the Cooper Design Building downtown.
Alice and John’s daughter, Michelle Coltrane, led the Sai Anantam Singers along with a full coterie of musicians — including a harpist and string section — as they filled the space with joyous, head-nodding sounds. A synthesis of Hindu devotional chants, jazz, soul, and gospel music, Alice’s music is at once strange and strangely familiar: rooted in universal rhythms and harmonies, imbued with positive spiritual energy.
During a pause between songs, a warm light from the setting sun began to pour in from the east and fill the space, as if on cue. Alice’s nephew is of course the inimitable Flying Lotus, who grew up spending time at Alice’s Agoura Hills ashram, and who took the stage to make some experimental sounds that contributed to the ethereal vibe of the evening.
Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s album available from Luaka Bop Records: World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda