Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotion to spirituality was the central purpose of the final four decades of her life, an often-overlooked awakening that largely took shape during her four-year marriage to John Coltrane and after his 1967 death. By 1983, Alice had established the 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram outside of Los Angeles. She quietly began recording music from the ashram, releasing it within her spiritual community in the form of private press cassette tapes. On May 5, Luaka Bop will release the first-ever compilation of recordings from this period, making these songs available to the wider public for the first time. Entitled ‘World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda,’ the release is the first installment in a planned series of spiritual music from around the globe; curated, compiled and distributed by Luaka Bop.
This powerful, largely unheard body of work finds Alice singing for the first time in her recorded catalog, which dates back to 1963 and includes appearances on six John Coltrane albums, alongside Charlie Haden and McCoy Tyner, and 14 albums as bandleader starting with her Impulse! debut in 1967 with ‘A Monastic Trio.’ The songs featured on the Luaka Bop release have been culled from the four cassettes that Alice recorded and released between 1982 and 1995: ‘Turiya Sings,’ ‘Divine Songs,’ ‘Infinite Chants,’ and ‘Glorious Chants.’ The digital, cassette and CD release will feature eight songs. The double-vinyl edition features two additional songs, “Krishna Japaye” from 1990’s ‘Infinite Chants, and the previously unreleased “Rama Katha” from a separate ‘Turiya Sings’ recording session.
Luaka Bop teamed with Alice’s children to find the original master tapes in the Coltrane archive. The recordings were prepared for re-mastering by the legendary engineer Baker Bigsby (Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, John Coltrane), who had overseen the original sessions in the 80s and 90s. The compilation showcases a diverse array of recordings in addition to Alice’s first vocal work: solo performances on her harp, small ensembles, and a 24-piece vocal choir. The release is dotted with eastern percussion, synthesizers, organs and strings, making for a mesmerizing, even otherworldly, listen. Alice was inspired by Vedic devotional songs from India and Nepal, adding her own music sensibility to the mix with original melodies and sophisticated song structures. She never lost her ability to draw from the bebop, blues and old-time spirituals of her Detroit youth, fusing a Western upbringing with Eastern classicism. In all, these recordings amount to a largely untold chapter in the life story of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda.
In addition to the recordings, GRAMMY-winning music historian Ashley Kahn has written extensive liner notes on the collection. The package also includes a series of interviews with those who knew Alice best, conducted by Dublab’s Mark “Frosty” McNeill, and an as-told-to interview between musician Surya Botofasina (who was raised on Alice’s ashram) and journalist Andy Beta. 2017 marks what would have been Alice’s 80th year of life, as well as the 10th anniversary of her passing. Alice will be celebrated at events throughout the United States, Europe and South America in the coming year. With this in mind, the time is right to bring this meaningful piece of Turiyasangitananda’s legacy into focus.