John Coltrane's 'Cousin Mary' Dies at 92

John Coltrane
JP Jazz Archive/Redferns

John Coltrane photographed in Copenhagen in 1961.

Jazz giant John Coltrane’s cousin, who inspired the composition “Cousin Mary” from his landmark album Giant Steps, has died in Philadelphia. Mary Lyerly Alexander was 92.   

Carla Washington of Philadelphia’s Clef Club who is a friend of the family says Alexander died Aug. 31.   

Lyerly spent much of her life working to preserve Coltrane’s legacy and supporting jazz and the arts.

The house in Philadelphia where Coltrane lived with her from 1952 to 1958 is now a national historic landmark.

In the liner notes for “Giant Steps,” the saxophonist described his cousin as “a very earthy, folksy, swinging person.”

The piece and others from the 1960 album, like “Naima” and the title track , have become practice templates for jazz saxophonists.

A memorial service is still being planned.


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