By Dawoud Kringle
Photo by Chris May
This is the second of a series of articles devoted to the women of jazz. It is a small attempt to give props and respect to an inexcusably overlooked segment of the music community (the first installment featured Emily Remler. This installment features Alice Coltrane, because there are few musicians in the history of jazz who successfully embodied the balance between music and spirituality as she did.
Born Alice McLeod in Detroit, MI in 1937 to Solon and Annie McLeod, Alice developed an interest in music in early childhood. By the age of nine, she played organ during services at Mount Olive Baptist church. She pursued music and started to perform in various clubs around Detroit, until moving to Paris in the late 1950s. By 1960, she worked as the intermission pianist at the Blue Note Jazz Club. She studied classical music, and studied jazz with Bud Powell, and also appeared on French television in a performance with Lucky Thompson, Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke. In the early 60’s she returned to Detroit and began playing jazz with her own trio and as a duo with vibraphonist Terry Pollard.
Text by Dawoud Kringle
In this part of the Jazz and Islam Series, I will provide a perspective on the growth of Islam among American jazz musicians.
Many of the earlier converts to Islam worked at raising money to bring Muslim / Sufi teachers to the USA. Talib Daoud and his wife, singer Dakota Staton (a.k.a. Aliyah Rabia) taught Islam in Philadelphia, PA. She also opened a store in New York City that sold African art and wares, and Islamic books and supplies. An Egyptian man named Sheikh Mahmoud Hassan Rabwan taught Islam and Arabic there. In the New York area a few Muslim owned venues, mostly restaurants, opened that featured musical performances. These included “The East” and “The House of Peace.” Mosques such as the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood used to hold benefit concerts, which featured performers such as Alice Coltrane, and others. Later, a performance venue opened by saxophonist, composer, bandleader, teacher, and mentor Muhammad Salahuddin (1930-2004) called “The University of the Streets” featured performances, workshops, and music instruction.