From Library Journal
Saxophonist Coltrane was one of the most influential and widely imitated jazz musicians. Nisenson ( 'Round About Midnight: A Portrait of Miles Davis , Dial Pr., 1983) places his subject's often difficult music in the artistic and social context of the 1960s, arguing that Coltrane wanted to reach and inspire, not alienate. While praising Coltrane for not staying with any style for long, Nisenson admits that he grew so involved in his music that he left many listeners bewildered. He points to the recording Ascension as an "audacious failure." Nisenson reviews the literature of Coltrane criticisms and helps newcomers by describing representative recordings from Coltrane's early, middle, and late periods. This responsible contribution to the Coltrane literature is recommended for large and small collections.
- Paul Baker, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This is not a formal biography of the great saxophonist John Coltrane but rather an articulation of the passions, ideas, and experiences that inspired his revolutionary music. Having said that, however, we must also say that Nisenson does, in fact, present us with a sensitive and vivid portrait of Coltrane as he progressed from a "journeyman bopper" addicted to alcohol and heroin to a profoundly spiritual "warrior" seeking knowledge of God through the making of music. Nisenson tracks not only Coltrane's career as an accomplished but not terribly original tenor saxophonist during the mid-1950s to his intensely fertile apprenticeships with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis but also his success in kicking the drug habit, his mastery of the soprano saxophone, his fascination with chords and harmony that lead to his incomparable "sheets of sound," and his immersion in the trance-inducing musical traditions of Africa and India. Nisenson's striking descriptions of the music of Coltrane and insights into his obsessions and sense of mission add up to indisputable evidence of Coltrane's pivotal role in transforming America's artistic and social consciousness. Coltrane traveled an immense spiritual and aesthetic distance in the last decade of his short life, often leaving his listeners behind in his quest for music that "reflected the universe." Donna Seaman
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