Watch This: A 1970 Public Television Segment on Spiritual Jazz Giant Alice Coltrane

The last decade or so has been a golden age of online archiving and digitization of our heritage as preserved in moving images. Within the online collection of videos shared by the National Museum of African American History are some real treasures – including the short film you will see below, which was produced as part of the National Educational Television show, BLACK JOURNAL, produced by William Greaves.

Greaves’ best known film, SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM, is an avant-garde work inspired by his work in documentary filmmaking. It is a landmark piece of cinema and should be viewed post-haste – you can see it on the Criterion Channel. Greaves’ work-for-hire as a producer and director is also of a very high standard, as may be observed in this documentary about Alice Coltrane, produced by Greaves and directed by fellow documentary legend St. Clair Bourne.

The segment takes the viewer into the home of musician and composer Alice Coltrane and her family. It was made three years after the death of Alice’s husband John Coltrane, and his connection and legacy are an important part of the film, but the subject of the film is not merely Mrs. John Coltrane, it is Alice Coltrane, musician, mother, and spiritual being. The sensitivity of perception and distinction that Bourne and Greaves bring to the portrait is notable. As a document of Alice Coltrane’s music and underlying currents of thought it is priceless. Our only complaint is the short 15 minute running time.


And while you are at it, see more from these filmmakers, and many others in the online archives of the Pearl Bowser collection.