Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda was an American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, singer, composer, swamini, and the wife of John Coltrane. Turiyasangitananda translates as the Transcendental Lord’s highest song of Bliss.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1937 to Solon and Annie McLeod, Alice was the fifth of six children. Her interest in music blossomed in early childhood. By the age of nine, she played organ during services at Mount Olive Baptist church.
In the early 60’s she began playing jazz as a professional in Detroit with her own trio and as a duo with vibist Terry Pollard. Alice would collaborate and performed with Kenny Clarke, Kenny Burrell, Ornette Coleman, Pharaoh Sanders, Charlie Haden, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJonette, and Carlos Santana. Many people are unaware that she replaced McCoy Tyner as pianist with the John Coltrane quartet and continued to play and record with the band until John’s death in 1967.
Alice’s interest in gospel, classical, and jazz music led to the creation of her own innovative style. Her talents expressed more fully when she became a solo recording artist. Her proficiency on keyboard, organ, and harp was remarkable. Later her natural musical artistry matured into amazing arrangements and compositions. Her twenty recordings cover a time span from Monastic Trio (1968) to Translinear Light (2004).
“…Sometimes people put themselves so deeply into sound - so deep into it that they give up everything. It’s like they renounce everything at that moment just to live those moments of music…”
Alice and John Coltrane married in 1965. Together they embarked on a deeply spiritual journey of musical exploration and forged a new genre of musical expression. After John’s passing, Alice was left to raise their four small children — Michelle, John Jr., Ravi, and Oran.
“…Before I even met him and became part of the group and part of his life, there was something in me that knew that there is a spiritual, musical connection, a divine connection, with this person. Because there were things that he said to me, they weren’t spoken with the human voice…”
Around the late 60’s, Alice entered into a most significant time in her life. As a seeker of spiritual truth, she spent focused time in isolation — fasting, praying, and meditating. In 1970 she met a guru, Swami Satchidananda. She traveled to India, and was divinely called into God's service. Alice dedicated her life to God and came to be known as Turiyasangitananda.
“…If we put one fourth of the time into trying to understand our spirituality that we put into wanting to grow more wealthy, we would find some of the incredible things occurring in our universe that we need to be aware of…”
Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda became the Founder and Director of The Vedantic Center in 1975, and later established a spiritual community in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. She would orate discourses and play organ to lead the members in devotional song for Sunday services.
“…One of the directives given to me was to start the ashram. I felt I could serve in any way that God wished. Whatever was ordered, I would have been happy to follow. My idea was to have the availability to seek the Lord, to be able to study spiritual scriptures, and to really immerse myself in living the spiritual life as much as possible…”
A.C. Turiyasangitananda, known as Swamini to many, left her physical form January 12, 2007.