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By Phil Gallo
What glowing accolade is left to be said about John Coltrane? Filmmaker John Scheinfeld knew long before he shot a single reel of Chasing Coltrane that a combination of talking heads and cradle-to-grave biography would insufficiently serve Coltrane’s legacy. To push beyond the limited footage and interviews—Denzel Washington reads Coltrane quotes and liner notes to give the saxophonist a voice in the doc—Scheinfeld amplifies Coltrane’s connections to the world beyond jazz, touching on the civil rights movement and its leaders, his admiration for intellects such as Einstein and fulfilling his responsibilities as a parent and husband.
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, which opens today in Los Angeles, is the story of the man as much as it is the saxophonist. The film is wall-to-wall Coltrane music culled from his years with Atlantic, Impulse, Prestige, Blue Note and, with Miles Davis, Columbia, yet it avoids any dissection of his style and concentrates on how he conducted himself and how his music would affect multiple generations after his death in 1967.
Scheinfeld focuses on a crucial period for Coltrane, the late 1950s, when Trane worked with Davis, created his own quartet and became a leading light among jazz composers. He also dealt with a heroin addiction and going cold turkey at a time when he was also attempting to be a decent father and husband.
While the film concentrates on the man, Rhino will focus on the revolutionary music he recorded for Atlantic Records.
A new anthology, Trane: The Atlantic Collection, focuses on 1959-1961 and comes out 6/9. Mono LPs of Giant Steps, Olé Coltrane, Coltrane Plays The Blues, Bags & Trane and The Avant-Garde follow on 6/16 and a mono CD of Giant Steps arrives 7/7. The albums were recently issued together as part of Rhino's boxed set John Coltrane: The Atlantic Years In Mono.