Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

John ScheinfeldUSA99 minutes2016PGColourB&WEnglish

Veteran documentarian John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon) explores the life and work of jazz legend John Coltrane, with commentary and appreciations from such diverse Trane devotees as Denzel Washington, Carlos Santana, Common, Cornell West and Bill Clinton.

Saxophonist, composer, and tireless innovator, John Coltrane expanded the frontiers of the jazz idiom, introducing elements from musical traditions the world over. His magnum opus, the alternately sombre and raucous A Love Supreme, is among the most haunting statements of spiritual devotion ever committed to tape. That Coltrane accomplished everything he did before his death at age 40 is at once heartbreaking and inspiring.

In Chasing Trane, veteran documentarian John Scheinfeld (last at the Festival with The U.S. vs. John Lennon) explores the life and work of this singular artist. From his childhood in the Jim Crow South to his hallowed tenure with Miles Davis — which pushed Coltrane to conquer his heroin addiction — to his triumphant run as leader of one of jazz's most fiery and revered quartets, Chasing Trane digs deep, chronicling a story of harrowing lows and interstellar highs.

Scheinfeld makes inspired use of archival materials, animated murals, readings of Coltrane's own words by Denzel Washington, and a wealth of new interviews. The list is catnip for music lovers: jazz elder statesmen Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, and Reggie Workman; rock legends Carlos Santana and John Densmore; and younger artists such as Common and Kamasi Washington, whose work renews the spirit of Coltrane for a new generation. Scheinfeld also speaks with critics Ben Ratliff and Ashley Kahn, philosopher Cornel West, and former US president Bill Clinton. Their testimonies are tremendously articulate but even so, there are moments when they fall speechless, reminding us that such powerful music touches something in us that is beyond words.

THOM POWERS

BiographyUSABlack + African DiasporaAddiction + RecoveryDocumentaryMusic