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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Chasing Trane



Chasing Trane is everything you want from a music documentary and should appeal to newcomers as well as to jazz aficionados.  The legacy and influence of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Franklin and Thelonius Monk enables us to see Coltrane’s continual evolution towards the boundaries of the jazz canon as he turns from playing to composing.  The southern Baptist childhood, the struggle with heroin, his involvement in Civil Rights and the peace movement, his early death: it’s all here, with plenty of photos, footage and generous excerpts from more than fifty recordings.  The film’s rather odd coda looks at the obsession of certain Japanese people with Coltrane’s music and tries to extend this into a claim for spiritual universality, but I can’t see this idea making much of an impression in Pyongyang or anywhere else. Interviews with Santana, the drummer from The Doors, a histrionic philosopher and Bill Clinton (saxophonist of lesser note, but an insightful fan), fill out the movie without distracting us from the music.  What’s not to like?