Imagine a man; he walks back home on a snowing evening in order not to spend the money he earned from a concert because his daughter (or more accurately, his wife’s daughter) needs shoes. It isn’t a short walk, either. The same man composed more than a hundred pieces including “Giant Steps”, “Central Park West”, “Moment’s Notice”, “Naima”, “Bessie’s Blues”, “Lazy Bird”, “Mr. P.C” and “Equinox”. His energy and legacy go on even today even though he spent such a short time like 40 years on this earth. He is not only mine but almost all jazz lovers’ favorite saxophonist: John Coltrane.
The 2017 documentary “Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary” isn’t the writer and director John Scheinfeld’s first documentary on music or jazz. Both “The U.S. vs. John Lennon”, a 2006 documentary which tells the real story of how USA government tried to oppress John Lennon’s calls for peace, and “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)”, which focuses on the story of the talented pop star Harry Nilson, are as intricate in detail and attractiveness as his “Chasing Trane”.
“Chasing Trane” starts with the 1950s era during which Coltrane plays in Miles Davis Quintet. It continues with his drug addiction, his leaving Miles Davis due to this, the crossroads he faces and the incredible story of him kicking drugs all by himself… The film’s music is performed by both older generation musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins, as well as contemporary ones like Kamasi Washington and Ravi Coltrane. It also features comments by music writers and a series of beautiful and unseen Coltrane photographs and unheard records. The Coltrane family shared the video and photo achieve in their hands, including home videos, to help out the director. The documentary, which starts with the story involving Miles Davis, continues with a flashback in which Coltrane is 12 years old. The way he overcomes the trauma of losing his father, uncle, grandfather, and eventually all male members of the family, through music, his relationship with religion and his beliefs… As Sonny Rollins says, Coltrane “has a spiritual connection to the concept of eternity, mathematics, science and the universe.” Maybe this connection is formed through his questioning of life after losing his family members at an early age, who knows? He always questions the universal realities of “Why are we here on this world? What do we need to do to improve ourselves and the world?” in addition to his music. Carlos Santana’s words “Some people play jazz. Some people play reggae. Some people play blues. Coltrane played life” is very fitting to such a thinker.
I recommend reading “Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews”, which features the musician’s sincere, unabridged and plain replies to questions asked during interviews, in addition to watching this documentary; it is a fascinating book. If you do the transcription of Coltrane on top, you would be completing the holy trinity. Wishing you a life “full of posibilities”, just like Coltrane’s playing. Keep grooving!