from the Thurs., Feb 16 UCLA Daily Bruin
By Michelle Castillo
Very few people have the ability to make a comeback after being gone for over a quarter century. However, if there was anyone up to the challenge, it would be Alice Coltrane.
“I couldn’t feel a time difference. It felt like a continuation to me,” said Coltrane, an innovative jazz pianist and the widow of jazz great John Coltrane.
Saturday, Alice Coltrane will perform at Royce Hall as part of the UCLA Live series. Dwight Trible and his quintet will open for her. The UCLA performance will mark the first time Trible, who calls his music spiritual jazz, will perform with Coltrane.
“It’s a very high honor ñ in fact one of the highest honors that I can have in this music,” said Trible. “She’s a very spiritual person. She’s always trying to help people and bring them closer to the source. Being on the same stage as her, or at least to be associated with her, is truly a blessing.”
After a 26-year hiatus from her previous album, 1978′s “Transfiguration,” which was recorded live at UCLA, Coltrane released “Translinear Light” in 2004. She was compelled to return to recording music by son Ravi Coltrane, who begged her for five years before she finally acquiesced to his request. “Translinear Light” combines the modern sounds created by the synthesizer with traditional jazz rhythms.
“It was really fun recording,” Coltrane said. “(Ravi) was the one who really pleaded and begged ñ he told me, ‘Everywhere I go people are asking (about you).’”
Although she did not release any albums during the 26-year gap between releases, Coltrane was still active in helping other artists record their music. But her main focus during her break from recording was to find spiritual enlightenment. Coltrane found it more important to discover her spirituality instead of pursing a second career, and she spent much of the time reading about Buddhist theory and other religions of the African and Asian worlds. Her studies clearly influenced “Translinear Light” through the mystical melodies woven throughout the songs.
Her interest in music began early. Even at a young age, her mother knew the musical realm would be a significant part of Coltrane’s life.
“My mother told me that as a baby anytime I heard music on the radio, I would crawl up to it and stay there and listen and listen and listen,” Coltrane said. “She said, ‘It’s a baby! How is it that (with) any music, she is attracted to it?’”
Coltrane found every opportunity to become immersed in the art of sound. She took an active role in educating herself about music.
“When I was 7 years old, I remember asking a lady if she would teach me music,” Coltrane said. “I was very shy, and she wasn’t a piano teacher, but I asked her to teach me piano. I studied classical music for 10 years. It was very enlightening.”
However, Alice Coltrane gained most of her fame as wife and fellow bandmate of John. The pianist is proud to be associated with the man who was arguably the greatest jazz musician of his era, and feels no regret at not being able to shrug off the inevitable comparisons and be judged on her own merits. Instead, she embraces his memory and uses him to inspire her work.
“(Being married to John) was one of the best experiences of my life,” Coltrane said. “He was a man of extraordinary intelligence and art. I like the way he talked ñ he had humor. But his mind for music was beyond anything I had seen. He was at the level of genius in terms of his music.”
John asked his wife to be part of his musical legacy by replacing his original pianist McCoy Tyner and have her join his band. Many were skeptical about this decision, including Coltrane herself. Despite her talent and aptitude, she was still shocked that John would even consider her to be part of his music.
“He had such insight. I was surprised that he asked me to join the band,” she said. “(It was) not that I felt unqualified or not up to level; it wasn’t a matter of music or ability. It was just the number of talented people in the music world.”
John still lives on in Coltrane’s music and heart. Her music is influenced by her husband’s work, but she adds a spiritual tone that makes it all her own.
“I knew that there wouldn’t be anyone who would stand in his shadow,” said Coltrane. “I had never seen anyone up to his level. I thought that it might be unfair to be with someone else knowing that I would knowingly or unknowingly compare everyone else to him.”
Despite being in the music industry for several decades, she still remains as passionate about her art as she was the day she began making music.
“I’m sure I will always be close to music,” Coltrane said. “Even though 27 years passed, I’m still very involved with it. The music will never change.”
ALICE COLTRANE at UCLA Royce Hall
Sat, Feb 18 at 8pm
Tickets are $45, 35 & 25. Available online at
or call 310.825.2101