This July, the world will finally hear an intimate, spiritual recording made by the godmother of spiritual jazz, Alice Coltrane. Recorded in 1981 and never shared in this form with the world at large, Kirtan: Turiya Sings is a stunning collection of nine devotional songs, featuring the never-before-heard combination of Alice Coltrane’s voice and organ.
Though known by many as the musical partner and wife of John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane is revered for her groundbreaking contributions to spiritual jazz with her legendary Impulse! recordings Journey in Satchidananda and Ptah, The El Daoud, among others. Throughout the 1970s, in addition to maintaining the busy schedule of a recording and touring artist, Alice Coltrane was immersing herself in Eastern philosophies, mythologies, and Vedic religious practices. By the early 1980s, she had become a guru and spiritual teacher and began to make music exclusively for her community at The Vedantic Center, northwest of Los Angeles.
The original recording of these songs, Turiya Sings, was released exclusively on cassette in 1982 for the students of the ashram. In addition to Coltrane’s voice and organ, the recording included synthesizers, strings, and sound effects. In 2004, Coltrane’s son and producer of this record, Ravi Coltrane, found mixes he’d never heard before of just Alice’s voice and her Wurlitzer organ. He knew this is what the world had to hear.
“In this setting I felt the greatest sense of her passion, devotion and exaltation in singing these songs in praise of the Supreme. In that moment, I knew people needed to hear Turiya Sings in this context.” Ravi continues, “as her son, growing up and hearing her playing these songs on the very same Wurlitzer you hear on this recording, I recognize this choice maintains the purity and essence of Alice’s musical and spiritual vision. In many ways, this new clarity brings these chants to an even higher place.”
The opening chords of Kirtan: Turiya Sings are a curtain opening into a realm of spirituality and devotion that only Alice Coltrane could conjure. This album is not jazz — it is not improvised. It is intentional, devotional, and spiritual. The music, sung in Sanskrit, is spacious and large, Alice’s voice has weight and power, her organ playing rock-solid, pulsing, a cauldron of musical influences you can hear from her life.
Ravi Coltrane summarizes the musical importance of this album best:
“On this album, your ear will be turned toward the sound of the blues, to gospel, to the Black American church, often combined with the Carnatic singing style of southern India. You will hear beautiful harmonies influenced by Coltrane’s Detroit/Motown roots, her bebop roots, John Coltrane’s impact, and her absorption of European classical music, particularly that of her favorite: Igor Stravinsky. Yet, at the same time, this is functional music. Its purpose is, with light and love, to praise the names of the Supreme. On this album, your heart and spirit will be turned toward divine inspiration and appreciation.”
Kirtan: Turiya Sings was mixed by Steve Genewick and mastered by Kevin Reeves from original 24-track masters. This is the same team that worked with producer Ravi Coltrane on Alice Coltrane’s last album, 2004’s Translinear Light.
Follow Alice Coltrane at alicecoltrane.com
Photo of Alice Coltrane 1987 (c) Frans Schellekens