The Music of Alice Coltrane Flourishes Anew

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Alice Coltrane in a detail from the album 'Live at Carnegie Hall.' (Alternative Fox Records)

Even if Reggie Workman had only ever played bass on the landmark John Coltrane albums Olé, Ballads and Live at the Village Vanguard, his name would be cemented in jazz history.

The fact is that Workman's played on literally hundreds of other albums. Like Ray Brown or Ron Carter, the 84-year-old bassist's reliable presence has anchored Art Blakey, Roy Ayers, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron, and others too many to count.

And then there's Alice Coltrane, the ahead-of-her-time harpist and pianist whose spiritual approach to jazz has seen a welcome renaissance in the past five years. Workman held down the low end on numerous recordings by Coltrane, including 1972's World Galaxy, and now, he pays tribute to her with a free outdoor concert at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in San Francisco.


The music of Alice Coltrane rewards deep listening, and especially when performed by Workman along with Bay Area luminaries Kev Choice, Richard Howell and David Ewell, and members of Brooklyn Raga Massive. On the afternoon performance, the harp is handled by the stellar Destiny Muhammad, whose periodic tributes to Alice Coltrane's music are a key thread in the fabric of Bay Area culture. Plan to leave the park a changed person.

The Alice Coltrane tribute makes a joyful noise on Saturday, June 11, from 1pm–2:30pm at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. Admission is free. Details here. The night before, on June 10, Workman, Muhammad and Howell join a free panel hosted by journalist (and regular KQED contributor) Andrew Gilbert at the Museum of the African Diaspora. Details here.