Alice McLeod was born August 27, 1937, to Solon and Annie McLeod, the fifth of six children. She was raised on Detroit’s east side in a home where prayers and hymns extolled the Lord. Her interest in music blossomed in early childhood.
By the age of nine, she played organ during services at Mount Olive Baptist church in Detroit, Michigan. Alice’s interest in gospel, classical, and jazz music led to the creation of her own innovative style. In time her talents expressed more fully when she became a solo recording artist. Her proficiency on keyboard, organ, and harp was remarkable. Later her natural musical artistry matured into amazing arrangements and compositions.
Alice collaborated and performed with Kenny Clarke, Kenny Burrell, Ornette Coleman, Pharaoh Sanders, Charlie Haden, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJonette and Carlos Santana. Her twenty recordings cover a time span from Monastic Trio (1968) to Translinear Light (2004). Her last unreleased recorded work is Sacred Language of Ascension (2006).
She met and eventually married the legendary Jazz musician, John Coltrane. Together they embarked on a deeply spiritual journey of musical exploration and forged a new genre of musical expression. Many people are unaware that Alice replaced McCoy Tyner as pianist with the John Coltrane quartet and continued to play and record with the band until John’s death on July 17, 1967.
Alice was left to raise their four small children, Michelle, John Jr, Ravi, and Oran. Alice entered into a most significant time in her life. As a seeker of spiritual truth, she spent focused time in isolation, fasting, praying and meditating. In 1970 she met a guru, Swami Satchidananda. She traveled to India, and was divinely called into God's service. Alice dedicated her life to God and came to be known as Turiyasangitananda.
Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda became the Founder and Director of The Vedantic Center in 1975, and later established a spiritual community in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern, California. She would orate discourses, and then play the organ to lead the members in devotional song for Sunday services. Spiritual guidance was always given without any mention of compensation.
Her writings include Monument Eternal, Divine Revelations, Endless Wisdom, a trilogy of three volumes inscribed as sacred texts received in her meditations. The booklet, Turiya Speaks, consists of five discourses. A.C. Turiyasangitananda, known as Swamini to many, left her physical form January 12, 2007. Her spiritual and musical legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the people. The innovative, futuristic sound of the Coltrane musical heritage known around the world will always be revered.
“...the Arts transcend limited social boundaries like class, race, and nationality.” – Turiyasangitananda
From an interview with Clea McDougall, Ascent magazine, Spring 2006:
Clea McDougall: You are the spiritual leader of your Ashram in Southern California. How did you become a teacher?
Swamini Turiyasangitananda: It started with taking the sannyas. That was a total mystical experience. It was God's deliverance of His anointed mercy on me. I was told the night and time, and to be prepared, so I got ready and put on a white dress and all, and I noticed when the time came, the colors of orange were poured into the cloth of the dress. And I just watched it happen. I just watched as everything turned into the saffron color. And my name was given, of course, and the whole outline of the duty, the work and mission were also revealed. One of the directives given to me was to start the Ashram. I felt I could serve in any way that God wished. If He wants you to do charity work or humanitarian work or however He wishes to utilize you, maybe just talking or giving musical concerts is fine. Many people have a musical ministry. Whatever was ordered, I would have been happy to receive.