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Posts Tagged ‘John Scheinfeld’

“CHASING TRANE” My rating: B

99 minutes |No MPAA rating

Most practitioners of the arts seek a compromise between vision and commerce.  Your art may be pure, but what does that matter if it doesn’t sell?

The saxophonist John Coltrane (1926-’67) seems not to have been concerned by matters of money or of popularity. As the new documentary “Chasing Trane” makes clear, he followed his muse wherever it took him, sometimes into aural landscapes that continue t0 perplex even his biggest fans.

John Scheinfeld’s “Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary” wastes no time making its case that the legendary jazz man was an artist of the first order, comparable to Beethoven or Shakespeare.

A staggering array of fellow musicians (Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson…just for starters), Coltrane biographers, his children and stepchildren, even a former Presdient of the United States testify not only to his talents but to the spirituality which fueled Coltrane’s musical adventurousness. He was so adept at channelling his emotions into his playing that listeners report being moved to tears without understanding how or why.

The facts of Coltrane’s career are cleanly laid out before us:  His childhood as the grandson of a minister, his work in the 1950s with the Miles Davis Quintet during its most productive period (his playing on the classic album “Kind of Blue” made him a household name among jazz fans) and later with Dizzy Gillespie.  His heroin addiction, which threatened to derail his career until he heroically kicked the habit cold turkey.

In 1961 Coltrane had a Top 40 hit with his instrumental take on “My Favorite Things” from the white-bread Broadway musical “The Sound of Music.”

In response to the 1963 bombing of a black Birmingham church in which four little girls died, Coltrane wrote and recorded the tune “Alabama,” described by former president and part time saxophonist Bill Clinton as a prime example of  Coltrane’s creativity and depth. It is, Clinton says with uncharacteristic poetry, a work “screaming with pain, undergirded by love.” (more…)

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