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Monday, January 15, 2007

Swamini Turiyasangitananda (aka Alice Coltrane) and Michael Brecker - RIP

We lost two musical giants - Alice Coltrane and Michael Brecker.

She was born Alice MacLeod in Detroit MI; she died Swamini Turiyasangitananda in Los Angeles. In between these two identities, she was Alice Coltrane. I suppose she remained Alice MacLeod and Alice Coltrane after she became Swamini Turiyasangitananda - it is hard to drop your history, even when spirituality pulls you away from the material world.

I read in today's paper that Alice's Sanskrit name, Swamini Turiyasangitananda, means "the highest song of God." She founded an ashram in 1983, pursuing the Eastern philosophy and religon that she discovered through John Coltrane. She married John in 1965 after knowing him for a few years; he died from liver cancer in 1967. Alice was a fluid and energetic pianist; she also played jazz harp ( the real harp, not the harmonica). She was off the scene for many years, but started making music again in 2004, cutting a record (Translinear Light) that was produced by her son, Ravi Coltrane. Alice was 69, which seems too young to lose a great soul.

The loss of Michael Brecker was even worse, if that is possible. He was only 57, taken out by leukemia. I am a huge fan of Michael Brecker; the "Dreams" LP of 1970 shook me hard as I was opening my ears to jazz and funk; I loved the Brecker Brothers albums that Michael cut with his trumpet-playing brother, Randy. Michael was a Coltrane disciple; I bet he knew Alice well. His mastery of the saxophone was complete. He played with James Brown; he played with Chick Corea. To me, he was the finest saxophonist of the Baby Boom generation - he could cover anything and everything. His own music was also stunning. I will put his stuff in rotation on my iPod today.

Michael Brecker was a family man; wife and kids. Michael's wife, Susan, spearheaded a search for a bone marrow donor - but a match wasn't found in time for Michael.

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