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Music Talk | An Oral History of Alice Coltrane

July 21, 20242:00 pm - 3:30 pm

English CART Captioning and ASL are provided.

About the Event

Vocalist Michelle Coltrane, daughter of Alice Coltrane, and harpist Brandee Younger come together for An Oral History of Alice Coltrane. Part conversation, part performance, the event features oral histories and biographical stories of Alice Coltrane interwoven with performances and demonstrations from Brandee Younger, bringing the stories to life.

Through creative works and masterful performances, Alice Coltrane’s pioneering practice has changed the music world. She grew up playing music in her Baptist church, and by the 1950s established herself as a proficient bebop pianist in the Detroit scene. She met John Coltrane in 1963 and was his primary musical collaborator until his death in 1967. Prolific in her creation, Alice’s innovative style incorporated both gospel and jazz, leading to iconic works like Journey in Satchidananda (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums). Once a profound musician, beloved spiritual leader, and pragmatic businesswoman, Alice Coltrane is now remembered as deeply giving human, known for her emphasis on charity work, education, and spiritual guidance.

MCA Music Talks pair powerhouse musicians with artists, activists, writers, and thinkers to take on big ideas in art and culture. These intimate evenings of performance and conversation reveal art world anecdotes, shared ideas, and creative inspirations.

This program is organized by Laura Paige Kyber, Assistant Curator of Performance, in partnership with The John & Alice Coltrane Home.

 

English CART Captioning and ASL are provided.

ASL provided.

About the Artists

Photo of woman singing into a microphone.

Michelle Coltrane. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Michelle Coltrane is a vocalist, composer, and Executive Board Member of the John & Alice Coltrane Home in Dix Hills, New York. Born in Paris, her immersion in music began at an early age with violin, viola, and clarinet lessons, as well as singing in the ashram led by her mother. Michelle began to travel around the world in her mid-twenties, DJing in Japan and writing “Color the Night” for the country’s Space World Amusement Park. While in Tokyo, she explored her talents as a voice actress and arranged and performed background vocals in studios around town. She toured as a background vocalist for some of the industry’s most renowned acts and would perform frequently with her own band. In 1997 Michelle released her debut album I Think of You in collaboration with Scott Hiltzik and saxophonist Ronnie Laws, which received a YES Award and was acclaimed by Jazz Times. In 2017, she released her sophomore album Awakening, which was in the top ten on the National Jazz Charts in 2017 and garnered critical acclaim. The eleven-song album on Blujazz Productions features collaborations with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Gerry Gibbs, and Ravi Coltrane, and was co-produced by Shea Welsh. In support of her solo music, Michelle has performed at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, Vibrato’s in Bel Air, The John Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles, The Jacobs Center in San Diego, The Jazz Standard in New York, The Side Door in Connecticut, The Miami Jazz Festival, The Panama Jazz Festival, The Montreux Jazz Festival, The Fort Bend Indiana Jazz Festival, and The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival in North Carolina. Outside of her solo career, Michelle notably performed and toured with the Sai Anatam Ashram Singers. Presently, Michelle is Chief Creative Officer at John & Alice Coltrane Home (deemed a Historical Landmark by the National Trust for Historic Preservation), the former residence of Michelle, her brothers, and her late parents. Michelle’s goal is to continue performing and recording music while supporting programs that elevate creative arts. In all that she does, she continues to share the Coltrane family message of universal consciousness.

 

Brandee Younger. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The sonically innovative harpist, Brandee Younger, is revolutionizing harp for the digital era. Over the past fifteen years, she has worked relentlessly to stretch boundaries and limitations for harpists. In 2022, she made history by becoming the first Black woman to be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition. That same year, she was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Always expanding as an artist, she has collaborated with cultural icons including Common, Lauryn Hill, John Legend, and Moses Sumney. Born and raised in Hempstead, New York, she bopped to the beats of artists like LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Busta Rhymes as a teen in the early 1990s. She began playing harp at the age of eleven and eventually enrolled at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where she studied classical music. It was through her love for Dorothy Ashby and the encouragement of legendary saxophonist Jackie McLean that Younger made her first foray into jazz with the harp. Hearing Ashby for the first time led her to envision new possibilities for herself as a harpist. After graduating from the Hartt School in 2006, Younger went on to develop a name for herself in the jazz and commercial recording scene in New York City. To date, her performance roster is fierce; she has played alongside jazz icons such as Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, and Reggie Workman. In 2008, she earned a Master of Music from New York University’s Steinhardt School and has been a guest faculty and lecturer at Berklee College of Music, Princeton University, Howard University, and Tulane University, among others. Currently, she serves as a teaching artist at New York University and The New School. Younger’s unwavering commitment to honoring the legacy of Black women harpists can also be seen through her curatorial work—she has curated a number of performances dedicated to honoring the work of Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane.

Partners and Funding

Partners

Tucked away in the residential neighborhood of Dix Hills, this two-story, brick and wood frame home was where John and Alice Coltrane chose to put down roots and raise their family from 1964 to 1973. John and Alice wrote and recorded some of their most enduring works in this peaceful suburban setting. The Coltrane Home seeks to inspire and educate by providing a tangible link to a period of deep creativity and transformation in the lives of two great African American artists: John and Alice Coltrane. To learn more, visit: thecoltranehome.org

The John & Alice Coltrane home logo.

Funding

Lead support for the 2024-25 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Generous support is provided by Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, N.A., Trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; and Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund.

The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.