Chasing Trane – The John Coltrane Documentary
In 2016, 50 years after John Coltrane died of liver cancer, “Chasing Trane” was released. It is now available to stream on Netflix. Documentarian John Scheinfeld has done a tremendous job in presenting the man and his music for fans and other music lovers alike.
Coltrane. To Jazz lovers, the name alone brings the sound of the sweetest, coolest saxophone imaginable, played by a musician who evoked an array of emotions and defied boundaries. As Carlos Santana says in the film, Coltrane played “life.”
Because Coltrane died before the days of streaming video, the film relies on the words of his friends and admirers to give us insight into the man, along with a plethora of photographs and home movies. Denzel Washington narrates and also reads the words of Coltrane himself, culled from spoken and written interviews. It is a tribute to the director that the speakers, narration, media, and most of all, the music, will interest fans and no doubt convert many other people who will leave the documentary wanting more.
The speakers were abundant and their love for this man is obvious. Coltrane was not perfect. For many years, he suffered from drug addiction until he quit cold turkey in the ’50s. He had a troubled first marriage and struggled to find a spiritual path, celebrating his final arrival at a strong faith with the superb “A Love Supreme.” Yet he found much joy in life and he shared it in his music along with every other emotion.
It is a pleasure to watch and listen to this film, and share the thoughts and memories of Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Reggie Workman, Sonny Rollins, and McCoy Tyner, Carlos Santana, John Densmore, Wynton Marsalas, and even Bill Clinton help us to understand the importance and impact of this man and his music.
It may have taken 50 years for a definitive documentary, but John Scheinfeld did a great job. And if you have Netflix, you can watch it more than once, which is what this reporter plans to do.