Alice Coltrane Dies

Alice Coltrane, a jazz performer and composer whose late husband was saxophone legend John Coltrane, has died. She was 69.

Coltrane died Friday of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in West Hills, said Marilyn McLeod, her sister.

For nearly 40 years, Coltrane had been the keeper of her husband’s musical legacy, managing his archive and estate. Her husband, one of the pivotal figures in the history of jazz, died of liver disease in 1967 at the age of 40.

A pianist and organist, Alice Coltrane was noted for her astral compositions and for bringing the harp onto the jazz bandstand. Her last performances came in the fall, when she participated in an abbreviated tour that included stops in New York and San Francisco, playing with her saxophonist son, Ravi.

Born Alice McLeod in Detroit on Aug. 27, 1937, she began her musical education at age 7, learning classical piano.

Later in life, after studying jazz piano briefly in Paris, she moved to New York, where she met her future husband in 1963 while playing with the group of vibes player Terry Gibbs.

John Coltrane "saw something in her that was beautiful," Gibbs, who has often taken credit for introducing the two, told the Los Angeles Times. "They were both very shy in a way. It was beautiful to see them fall in love.”

She left Gibbs’ band to marry Coltrane and began performing with his band in the mid-1960s. She played tour dates with Coltrane’s group in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo.

"John showed me how to play fully,” Alice Coltrane said in comments published in "The Black Giants.”

"John not only taught me how to explore but to play thoroughly and completely,” she said.

After his death, she devoted herself to raising their children but continued to play.

Early albums under her name, including A Monastic Trio‘ and Ptah the El Daoud, were greeted with critical praise for her compositions and playing.

Ptah the El Daoud featured her sweeping harp flourishes, a sound not commonly heard in jazz recordings. Her last recording, Translinear Light, came in 2004. It was her first jazz album in 26 years.

Though known to many for her contributions to jazz and early New Age music, Coltrane, a convert to Hinduism, was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills.

In addition to Ravi, she is survived by another son, a daughter, and five grandchildren. Her son John Coltrane Jr. died in an automobile accident in 1982.