One of my very favorites is the pianist/harpist/composer and cosmic music traveler Alice McLeod, known later as Alice Coltrane. Another great jazz artist from Detroit, she is possibly best known for being the wife and collaborator of John Coltrane, but Alice is an amazing artist in her own right. She brought celestial concepts into the music and fused free jazz, Indian, European classical, new age, bebop and avant-garde into a gorgeously spiritual, intense experience.
Her music has gained much more currency in the last twenty years but I have always been a fan. I remember thinking "why are her records so cheap and not talked-about when they are equal in quality to her contemporaries?" (Answer: because she's a woman). These days her records are not cheap at all and are very desirable commodities.
Getting her start on piano at age 7, she studied classical music and was a jazz piano student of Bud Powell's. She started playing professionally in the late '50s, with early gigs including stints with vibraphonists Terry Gibbs and Terry Pollard, as well as Yusef Lateef, Kenny Burrell, and The Premiers before moving to NYC.
She married Coltrane in '65 (her second marriage) and replaced McCoy Tyner in his band. She brought a freer, otherworldliness to Trane's music and that later group of his (with Alice, Pharoah Sanders, Rashied Ali and Jimmy Garrison) is my favorite of his line-ups. After his death she continued working with their associates, recording for Impulse! Records.
She changed her name to Turiya and founded a Vedantic center in California. Her commercially available recordings were few but have become top catalogue sellers in recent years. Aside from her own records and those with her husband, I recommend the AMAZING one with Joe Henderson called The Elements and she appeared on records by Santana, McCoy Tyner, The Rascals, Laura Nyro and Charlie Haden.
She was a top arranger, and added Wurlitzer and synthesizer to her musical toolbox. Flying Lotus is her nephew, Ravi and Oran Coltrane are her sons and bop bassist Ernie Farrow was her brother. Deservedly, many tributes have emerged.