Saturday, October 09, 2010

Books: Coltrane on Coltrane

Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane InterviewsColtrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews by Chris DeVito

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fascinating book gathers together all known and available interviews with the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. The volume is arranged chronologically, beginning with a few newspaper articles during his career as a sideman with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, and then moving on to his meteoric rise as a bandleader and progressive force in jazz. The most interesting aspect of the book is the difficulty in which the critics and writers of the time had in understanding Coltrane's music and reconciling his gentle personal nature and his forceful music. At times it feels like the interviewers were disappointed that he wasn't more radical and politically oriented, but instead was a deeply thoughtful man. The picture that emerges of Coltrane is a fascinating one, a man who was continually seeking and questioning not only the music he was making but but philosophy, religion and the nature of mankind. A couple of the more well known interviews included in this book are "John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Answer the Jazz Critics" conducted by Downbeat's Don DeMichael. This came at a time when the two men were under attack from critics who called their music "anti-jazz" and accused them of a radical non-swinging agenda. Both Coltrane and Dolphy sound genuinely confused by the criticism, and do their best to explain their music in a congenial and thoughtful way. Another interesting exchange takes place between the scholar Frank Kofsky and Coltrane in 1966, after Coltrane's music had grown quite free. Kofsky gets him to open up a little on his political feelings, discussing Malcolm X, the Vietnam War and race relations. It's a fascinating lengthy interview where they cover a variety of subjects both musical and non-musical subjects, and it reveals just how thoughtful Coltrane was as both a man and a musician. Coltrane fans will definitely enjoy this book, it is a little repetitive at times when the interviewers are asking him the same questions over and over, but there is a lot of wonderful information and dialogue here.

Coltrane on Coltrane -

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