January 17, 2007


Jazz mourns an icon (MARK STRYKER, 1/15/07, Detroit FREE PRESS)

Of all the musicians forged by the golden age of jazz in Detroit in the mid-20th Century, Alice Coltrane, who died Friday in a suburban Los Angeles hospital of respiratory failure at age 69, traveled the farthest from her roots. It was a remarkable journey.

She started as a nimble, Detroit-born bebop pianist in the '50s named Alice McLeod, but under the sway of her husband, revolutionary saxophonist John Coltrane, she adopted an expressionistic style on piano, harp and organ and became an icon of the avant-garde in the decade following his death in 1967.

On piano she favored rhapsodic arpeggios that fused with celestial modal harmonies and dark bass notes that seemed to grow from Middle Earth. On Wurlitzer organ she created a signature ululating wail. The music was redolent of meditation, Eastern tonality, the church, John Coltrane and the great beyond. Her records, such as "Universal Consciousness" and "Ptah, the El Daoud," helped define an era in which non-Western modes of consciousness were gaining currency.

The music was a bridge into a new life for Coltrane as a Hindu mystic and religious teacher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 17, 2007 4:25 PM
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