John Coltrane – The World According to John Coltrane Documentary


Produced with the cooperation of his widow Alice Coltrane, the documentary focuses on the later period of Coltrane’s work where he explored themes of Eastern spirituality. This is a retrospective documentary on the life and music of saxophonist John Coltrane, featuring reminiscences and interviews with his contemporaries and fellow musicians.

The documentary is narrated by Ed Wheeler and directed by Robert Palmer and Toby Byron. Because Coltrane died from liver disease in 1967, there isn’t that much footage available and you sense they were struggling to find source material. Hence the reliance on reminiscences and lots of fancy zooms on stills. Of great interest to Coltrane scholars will be the recording of John Coltrane while in the Navy (1947) playing the alto saxophone (on Charlie Parker’s “Ko-Ko”)–by far the earliest recording of the saxophonist that has yet surfaced, and a few excerpts from concert and studio performances. Most of the footage is in black and white, apart from an excerpt of Coltrane’s last quartet (featuring wife Alice Coltrane on piano and Rashied Ali on drums) performing in concert in colour.

The documentary focuses very much on the middle period of Coltrane’s career, with only brief references to his rhythm and blue roots, collaborations with Jimmy Heath, and his participation in the Miles Davis Quintet. Much of the documentary focuses on the classic John Coltrane Quartet (with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison), from about the period of My Favorite Things to A Love Supreme.

Surprisingly, there is very little focus on John Coltrane’s personal life – including his marriage to Alice Coltrane, his son Ravi, and the documentary even avoids talking about his death. – Wikipedia


January 7th, 2014

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Author: Paul Thomson