October 21, 2011

Translinear Dawn

Alice Coltrane, who later changed her name to Turiyasangitananda, was born on August 27, 1937 in Detroit, Mich. As a child in Detroit, young Alice McLeod studied classical music and participated in the gospel band at church. But her brother, bassist Ernie Farrow, introduced her to jazz early on, and as a teen she became quite taken with bop and its offshoots. In Detroit she played piano on sessions with masters like guitarist Kenny Burrell and saxophonist Lucky Thompson. By the early 1960s she was sharing the bandstand with vibes player Terry Gibbs. It was on tour with Gibbs that she met saxophonist John Coltrane. Their 1966 wedding was the start of a musical union as well. When she replaced pianist McCoy Tyner in the classic Coltrane Quartet there was hubbub in the jazz world. But John Coltrane’s music was unfolding further with every passing month — he had begun probing musical motifs from the East. Alice’s approach to the piano assisted in extending the music even further.

When her husband crossed over in 1967, Alice continued working with members of his last group, including Garrison, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and drummer Rashied Ali. She began playing the harp, utilizing sitar and tablas in the ensemble, and turning fully to Eastern cultures for inspiration; spiritual and colorful, her music morphed into the soundtrack for prayer. Her talents and trajectory spoke to others.

Alice Coltrane was an uncompromising pianist, composer and bandleader, who spent the majority of her life seeking spiritually in both music and her private life. Music ran in Alice Coltrane's family; her older brother was bassist Ernie Farrow, who in the '50s and '60s played in the bands of Barry Harris, Stan Getz, Terry Gibbs, and especially Yusef Lateef. Alice McLeod began studying classical music at the age of seven. She attended Detroit's Cass Technical High School with pianist Hugh Lawson and drummer Earl Williams. As a young woman she played in church and was a fine bebop pianist in the bands of such local musicians as Lateef and Kenny Burrell. McLeod traveled to Paris in 1959 to study with Bud Powell. She met John Coltrane while touring and recording with Gibbs around 1962-1963; she married the saxophonist in 1965, and joined his band -- replacing McCoy Tyner -- one year later. Alice stayed with John's band until his death in 1967; on his albums Live at the Village Vanguard Again! and Concert in Japan, her playing is characterized by rhythmically ambiguous arpeggios and a pulsing thickness of texture.

Subsequently, she formed her own bands with players such as Pharoah Sanders, Joe Henderson, Frank Lowe, Carlos Ward, Rashied Ali, Archie Shepp, and Jimmy Garrison. In addition to the piano, Alice also played harp and Wurlitzer organ. She led a series of groups and recorded fairly often for Impulse, including the celebrated albums Monastic Trio, Journey in Satchidananda, Universal Consciousness, and World Galaxy. She then moved to Warner Brothers, where she released albums such as Transcendence, Eternity, and her double live opus Transfiguration in 1978.

Long concerned with spiritual matters, Coltrane founded a center for Eastern spiritual study called the Vedanta Center in 1975. Also, she began a long hiatus from public or recorded performance, though her 1981 appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio series was released by Jazz Alliance. In 1987, she led a quartet that included her sons Ravi and Oran in a John Coltrane tribute concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Coltrane returned to public performance in 1998 at a Town Hall Concert with Ravi and again at Joe's Pub in Manhattan in 2002.

She began recording again in 2000 and eventually issued the stellar Translinear Light on the Verve label in 2004. Produced by Ravi, it featured Coltrane on piano, organ, and synthesizer, in a host of playing situations with luminary collaborators that included not only her sons, but also Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and James Genus. After the release of Translinear Light, she began playing live more frequently, including a date in Paris shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and a brief tour in fall 2006 with Ravi. Alice Coltrane crossed over on January 12, 2007, of respiratory failure at Los Angeles' West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.

Anushka Nagji, better known in the poetry world as Anushka In-Repair, was born on July 10 1986 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Anushka is an avid dreamer and egregiously idealistic. She loves the ocean and the prairie as she splits her time between Victoria, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta in Canada while in the final year of Law School.

Anushka loves and fights with equal passion which is reflective in her poetry. And, she’s currently working on a manuscript tentatively titled, “The Dear L Letters”
When asked what is the relationship between jazz and poetry and what is the importance of each to our culture? Anushka responds; If my poetry was music, it would be John and Alice Coltrane fucking, sweating, loving, it would be jazz.

She adds, "How much is being created? Are the resulting creations diverse and representative? Is the act of the creation encouraged or discouraged? Censored or uncensored?" Jazz and poetry are and will always be interconnected forms of art. Both traditionally require the artist not just to say the words, sing them or play them, but asks the artist to understand why they need to be said, sung and played. There is a freedom that is available and encouraged in jazz and poetry that I have not found anywhere else, the bebop, the scatting, the freestyle allows for a wide range of creation within these umbrella terms.

Art. The creation and dissemination or consumption of, all uncensored and unregulated in regards to content, are essential to a properly functioning, free society. In particular, jazz and poetry have been historically and remain so, important to this idea. Both art forms allow and often embody the truth, raw and ugly, beautiful and inspiring, in the world and in the people around us. The resulting creations are powerful critiques and praises to our lifestyles, our government, and our norms. Therefore, jazz and poetry in particular operate as a measure of society, civilization.

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