OR!GINS: Spiritual Jazz



By Guest Writer: QADIM ABDUL MATIN


Have you ever lost yourself in rhythm? You know, that vibe. It just consumes you whole. It takes you to a place of peace. Freedom. Being one with the resonance of sound. It’s beautiful isn’t it? Music has a way of carrying you beyond physical limitations. A communion with the divine where you acknowledge your spirit. The true feeling of being present with no focus on distractions. Spiritual Jazz, a style of Avant-Garde Jazz music, is that soul essence.


Emerging in the 1960s. Spiritual Jazz is closely associated with the musical and spiritual philosophy developed by John Coltrane which was passed on to his collaborators Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.


Jazz has always embodied the spiritual expression of musicians. Elements of blues and gospel intertwined with improvisation of free expressive sounds. During the 1960s, Jazz was a voice of the times, especially in America. “The struggle was real". The Civil Rights movement was growing. The Vietnam war onset. The age of African-centric awareness and the spirituality of man was upon us.


“that feeling you have when you finally do reach an awareness, an understanding which you have earned through struggle. It is a welcome feeling of peace.”- John Coltrane



The styling of John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, is considered the genesis of Spiritual Jazz or Astral/Cosmic Jazz. Composing magnificent melodies backed by ambient improvisation. Infusing the raw energy of music with elements of the East and Africa discovered in his spiritual awakening. Uses of the oud, tabla, and chimes were introduced into the mixture of this innovative sound. A jazzy fusion of Cuban, Arabic, and Indian folk music became a communion with the divine.


Alice Coltrane, A Monastic Trio and Ptah El Dauod, carried on her husband’s pursuit of spiritual expression in sound. Her late husband wanted to experiment with harp sounds, so he ordered one before his passing. Alice was intrigued with the instrument and it became somewhat of a signature sound in her musical offerings. Mrs. Coltrane also became very invested in her spiritual quest and started her own ashram in Santa Monica, which unfortunately was lost in California wild fires in 2018.



The music became even more free, very meditative. Pharaoh Sanders, who studied under Coltrane, continued to take music beyond the notes and toward pure sound after Coltrane’s passing away. The spirit lives on through those inspired by “Trane’s” wisdom and artistry.



Spiritual Jazz is a communion with the divine. The sounds of the musician’s search for connection between man and the all. The rhythm, the vibes, the expression, and all that Jazz.