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John Coltrane and Black America's Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music Paperback – September 9, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0195328929 ISBN-10: 0195328922

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John Coltrane and Black America's Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music + John Coltrane: His Life and Music (The Michigan American Music Series) + Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews (Musicians in Their Own Words)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195328922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195328929
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.7 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Coltrane's significance in the black community goes far beyond the notes he played. He stands for integrity, humility, spirituality, and more. For me, this book is a chance to read what my esteemed friends and colleagues have to say about this twentieth-century icon. For everyone, it's an opportunity to learn about Coltrane - the man and his music - from some new points of view." --Dr. Lewis Porter, Rutgers University-Newark

"If John Coltrane was 'invited' into the community of jazz musicians to be a custodian, innovator, and disseminator of Black American culture, Brown himself has invited a first-rate group of Black American contributors-scholars, musicians, media personalities, and educators-to provide an insightful and provocative view of the continuing relevance of Coltrane's music to the development of Black American spirituality, liberation, and non-Western ways of music-making." --Reebee Garofalo, University of Massachusetts, Boston

"The collection reads like a lively townhouse meeting in which the impassioned citizens of 'Tranes-ville' stake out their intellectual territories, each arguing for the importance of Coltrane's music and the deep sense of spirituality we sense in his singular brand of cultural nationalism. Come to the meeting and be inspired as well by this musician's exacting execution and uncompromising truth." --Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop

"John Coltrane and Black America's Quest for Freedom is a thorough investigation of John Coltrane's music via the artist, and the artist via his culture, not in an effort to solidify notions of black identity or enshrine a cultural legacy, but rather to show that the Black American experience itself is complex, improvised, defiant, and irreducible."

"An insightful collection."

"A useful collection for those serious about the culture of jazz in general and Coltrane in particular. Recommended." --Choice

About the Author

Leonard Brown is a professional saxophonist, composer and arranger, and Associate Professor of African American Studies and Music at Northeastern University. A Ford Fellow, he served as senior consulting historian and principal ethnomusicologist for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, and is co-author of Kansas City - And All That's Jazz. Brown is co-founder and producer of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steven McGill on January 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the seventh book I've read on John Coltrane, and in many ways it is the best. While it is not as thorough in covering Coltrane's life and career as Lewis Porter's biography, this book doesn't purport to be a biography. Instead, it is a series of essays and interviews that gives the reader a larger understanding of the social, cultural, and spiritual impact of Coltrane's music. It helped me to understand Coltrane's sound in the broader context of the traditions of African-American music, dating back to slavery times. Because really, if you listen to Coltrane's music without any awareness of the cultural context from which it sprang, you can easily find yourself lost in a whirlwind of sound that makes absolutely no sense.

What I like most about this book is that it directly addresses some of the attacks that critics in Coltrane's day made on his music. In one of the essays, written by Leonard Brown (the editor of the collection), the author reprints a letter that Coltrane wrote in 1962 to Downbeat editor Don DeMichael. Brown does an excellent job of breaking down the points that Coltrane made in the letter, and of making it clear how resolute Coltrane was in moving forward with his vision, critics be damned. In that sense, I found this book to be a refreshing change in outlook after previously reading Ben Ratliff's book, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound. In his book, Ratliff gave much credence to the negative critics who vilified Coltrane for his musical explorations, going so far as to term his music "anti-jazz." Ratliff seemed to think that because authoritative critics made such comments, then such comments have inherent credibility. Brown, on the other hand, clearly shows how such critics very much lacked credibility.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By michaelfarris10 on April 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To revisit the messages behind the creation of this cosmic music is useful because old generations need to vocalize those goals, and new generations need to see the connectedness of Passion, politics, and art. Often they are only introduced piecemeal to all three.
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