Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The John Coltrane Reference by Lewis Porter, et. al. (Routledge, 2008)

This amazing piece of musical scholarship must be one of the most sublime pieces of obsession ever committed to print. Edited by Rutgers University scholar and musician (and Coltrane biographer) Lewis Porter, it is the work of a team of scholars and fans to collate everything known about saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. The book is broken down into two lengthy sections, Part One: The Chronology, which tracks Coltrane's life and music from his birth in Hamlet, North Carolina in 1926 to his death in Long Island in 1967. The Chronology tracks recording dates and personnel as well as tours and live concerts, and major events in Coltrane's life. The music is taken in even greater detail in Part Two: The Discography, which lists all known recording sessions and live performances in chronological order. While this would probably strike some as a dry list of facts, what makes this book even more valuable are the anecdotes that the researchers have collected from fellow musicians and from the media. For example, did you know that one evening at the Half Note in 1964 Coltrane wasn't feeling well after the first set of a gig, so he sat out the second set, allowing Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler, who had apparently been practicing together earlier in the afternoon take his place. Can you imagine! The mind reels just thinking about it. Critic Gary Giddins's reaction to the "joyful, terrifying noise" of Coltrane's band in 1966 is fascinating as well as the re-prints of newspaper advertisements for the band's upcoming gigs. This was a fascinating book to flip through and a very impressive work of scholarship and research this is endlessly interesting for both music fans and scholars. The John Coltrane Reference -

Send comments to Tim.