June 11, 2018  (Web Review)

Chasing Trane

(2017) 158 min. DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $24.99. Universal Music Enterprises (avail. from most distributors).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker John Scheinfeld pays rapturous tribute to jazz icon John Coltrane in this documentary featuring jazz insiders, vintage photographs, archival film footage, and input from surviving children and stepchildren from his two marriages. The resulting biographical portrait is an adoring one of the saxophone player, with kudos from Sonny Rollins, John Densmore, Dr. Cornel West, Bill Clinton, Common, Wynton Marsalis, and others. There is an acknowledgement of Coltrane’s drug problems, which led to his strained relations with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, but the general tone is set by the striking opening animation depicting Coltrane as literally a star-field in the universe, a mystic force of creation. As the genesis of seminal Coltrane songs such as “Alabama” and “A Love Supreme” are discussed, Coltrane is turned into more of a transcendental musical-spiritual-messiah figure. Various good points are made, but we get it: people really, really like John Coltrane. Also featuring biographers Lewis Porter and Ben Ratliff, as well as Japan’s Coltrane superfan Yasuhiro Fujioka, extras include bonus segments on—among other topics—Coltrane-inspired painter-illustrator Rudy Gutierrez, and a neurologist studying music’s effect on brain activity (using Coltrane music, naturally). Recommended. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)