Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
2016 | Documentary | 99 minutes | English
The documentary begins with John Coltrane, a member of the Miles Davis quintet, at the epicenter of the jazz universe. Although a heroin-addict and alcoholic, Coltrane managed to hold on. Each night, he and Miles, together with Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Jones, as critic Owen Gleiberman wrote, “were recasting the molecular structure of jazz, melting down the harmonies of bebop into something exquisitely downcast and bittersweet.” Eventually, Miles fired Coltrane because of his heroin addiction. A determined Coltrane then decided to be drug free the hardest way possible: going cold turkey. Purified, Coltrane recorded the gorgeous soprano-sax version of “My Favorite Things” and his suite to God which became his landmark album, “A Love Supreme.” Coltrane died at the early age of 40 from liver cancer. In his short career he created great music. But Cornel West added that “Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Coltrane represented the best of the human spirit.”
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 73%
- Metacritic Score: 69
- Black Reel Awards: Nominated, Outstanding Documentary Feature
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The genius of John Coltrane comes to life in an elegantly crafted documentary that can hook jazz novices as well as connoisseurs. By treating Coltrane as someone whose identity was filled to the brim by music, CHASING TRANE presents him as a mythological figure: the apotheosis of jazz. Other great artists would follow, but after Coltrane it would all be sound in the wilderness.
A music titan gets his cinematic due in CHASING TRANE, a comprehensive, engrossing and, it’s tempting to say, worshipful account of the life of John Coltrane. Most aficionados would agree he deserves a spot on the jazz equivalent of Mount Rushmore. Filmmaker John Scheinfeld has cast his net far and wide to obtain performance and background footage, with evocative and satisfying results.
CHASING TRANE streamlines the story of the jazz saxophonist, but it does so in a way that doesn’t feel like cheating. Scheinfeld’s approach is to give the viewer the forest, point out a few trees and get out, confident that those trees will inspire the viewer to spend more time in the forest.
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