Masters of American Music: The World According to John Coltrane
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Innovative, influential and strongly revered, John Coltrane was the most revolutionary and widely imitated saxophonist in jazz. With previously unseen footage, The World According
to John Coltrane celebrates this extraordinary and passionate musician who strove with 'relentless curiosity' for a musical ideal and cultivated an almost saintly reputation among listeners and fellow musicians. The film
includes extensive performance footage and culminates in a fascinating musical meeting between the Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and dervish musicians
in Morocco's Sahara desert in 1990.
"...Not a straight biographical doc or even a chronological one about his album releases, The World According to John Coltrane (59 mins., $19.99) takes a more meditative, wider view of looking at the artist and how his experience and outside influences shaped his music.
Interviewees include jazzmen and Coltrane sidemen/friends Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, Rashied Ali and Tommy Flanagan, as well as the voice of wife/pianist Alice Coltrane. Oddly, we don't hear so much of a peep from Coltrane himself in any clips, his only expression through lengthy - and amazing - TV musical performances.
If the DVD has a main thesis, it's that Coltrane was an endless seeker, not just with his music but with his life. So while he could have had a fine career simply re-recording Giant Steps and A Love Supreme over and over, his pursuit of all kinds of world music - gospel, Asian, African, Middle Eastern - permeated his own tunes. Who else could turn a poppy showbiz tune from The Sound of Music ("My Favorite Things") into a near-orgasmic, whirling-dervish exercise in intensity?
'I don't know where he got the energy from,' Ali notes. 'He was relentless. He was always pursuing the music.'" -Bob Ruggiero -- Houston Press Blogs
"The legacy of John Coltrane is gigantic, and not necessarily a simple concept to grasp. Not just a virtuoso musician, Coltrane stands as a true visionary in his field. This documentary produced in cooperation with his wife, Alice Coltrane, carefully examines his religious roots in defining his development as a musician and spiritual being. These two sides of his artistic vision would elevate his work and life in a profound manner. Inspired by his early involvement in church, Coltrane's work would evolve beyond the realm of music into an exhaustive search for the pure spirituality of man. Equally influenced by the meditative and passionate Middle Eastern and African melodic modality, this innovator infused his music with soaring and evocative composition. This intensity and commitment to experimentation and freedom of expression influenced an entire generation of jazz, classical and popular musicians. His lifelong search for global music and spiritual awareness remains at the core of this documentary. It is interesting to note that Coltrane's ambition was to play with as many diverse and multicultural musicians in his lifetime as possible.
This reissue DVD offers performance highlights interspersed with commentary by a variety of musicians. It is an interesting experience to watch Coltrane produce those incredible sounds out of the tenor sax (Giant Steps), and the soprano sax (My Favorite Things). The performance footage focuses on the inimitable John Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison on bass. Equally moving is the rendition of the moody and reflective Reverend King Alabama. The black and white film underscores the minimalistic and groundbreaking explorations of these musicians. Footage of Coltrane with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis will demonstrate the respect and awe he inspired in other musicians. He would continue to experiment, improvise and move forward, regardless of critics or jazz purists. His music would always reflect a personal yet universal embrace of the human spirit and its inexorable aspirations. This DVD provides an incisive glimpse into a genius' pursuit of music, spirituality, and the world condition." -Robbie Gerson -- Audiophile Audition: May 25, 2010 - http://www.audaud.com/article?ArticleID=7396
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There's only some problems with that: although the doco does contain the entirety of Coltrane's solo after Tyner's, it does not include the beginning of the performance...and also, the sound quality is so extremely bad that it almost makes you weep.
Still, this is incredible music. Coltrane here breaks so free from the studio version of the piece that one wonders why none of the recorded (or bootlegged) versions seem to have this much power...this is truly an outstanding performance, which we are lucky to have.
The visuals are also astoundingly powerful - you can see the strain in Coltrane's face, and in Elvin Jones' - drool begins dripping out of the end of the soprano sax, and at one point Coltrane (deeply into the performance) accidentally clubs the microphone with it! The visual details make this performance almost frightening to watch - one wonders what a real live performance of coltrane was like.
The other performances on this disc are very fine too - look at the ONLY complete recording of Alabama (not a single CD version has the whole piece) and it's on video too! There's a couple of fierce performances of Impressions - one with Eric Dolphy - and a superb Naima.
There is finally colour footage of Coltrane at the Newport '65 concert (New thing at Newport) which shows the frightening energy of his music making as well as the fact that James Garrison had appalling dress sense...
This film includes a long solo of Coltrane and his band playing "My Favorite Things"--where he works himself into a feverish mood. The film effectively draws a comparison between Coltrane's playing and a spiritual trance, not unlike what he would have experienced in church as a young person in North Carolina.
There are some great interviews with Rashied Ali, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, LaMonte Young and Alice Coltrane. In addition to the well-chosen footage, I like this film so well because it treats the viewer as intelligent. It isn't filled with superlatives and excessive fawning. It isn't condescending. "A Love Supreme" is barely mentioned. The interviewees talk to the camera (to you) like you're a real person who's curious about the life and the music of Coltrane. For a jazz fan, this is a real treasure. For someone who doesn't know much about Coltrane, it would probably be an excellent introduction. The length is about one hour.
Most recent customer reviews
Why I consider it weak:
1. It is only 60 min and not all the time is for his music.Read more