Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary Screen 6 articles

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary


Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary Poster
  • A dully conventional film about a brilliantly unconventional musician... The film offers almost no musical context; Scheinfeld seems more interested in Coltrane’s story arc than in his art.

  • The filmmakers seem not to have considered that they could, with excerpts and expert opinion, guide viewers into the squall of Ascension or Meditations, just as they don’t seem to think they owe it to us to articulate what ‘Trane picked up from his stints working with Davis or Thelonious Monk. West’s musing on the latter — “That level of genius taking time to nurture your genius!” — is as deep into technique as Chasing Trane gets.

  • Dutifully addressing Coltrane’s diversity and supplying historical context, Chasing Trane functions as a solid primer for newcomers, while its stunning performance clips, winsome home movies and teeming cavalcade of interviewees—Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Reggie Workman, Jimmy Heath and the always voluble Cornel West among them—will keep aficionados perfectly engaged.

  • Scheinfeld does well to add depth and perspective from Heath, Wayne Shorter (who hears "the wailing of Coltrane's grandfather," a preacher, in his horn), and especially Sonny Rollins. Carlos Santana does as well, despite his hippy-dippy hyperbole.

  • Director John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon) nicely balances Coltrane's biography with explanations of his musical innovations, showing how the two were intertwined... The engaging talking heads include friends and associates (among them Sonny Rollins and McCoy Tyner, the latter featured too briefly) and such Coltrane enthusiasts as Common and Bill Clinton.

  • Scheinfeld, who’s previously made docs on challenging subjects such as Harry Nilsson and Bing Crosby, is at least smart enough not to go into this subject in an intimidated, defensive crouch. “Chasing Trane” streamlines the story of the jazz saxophonist, but it does so in a way that doesn’t feel like cheating. Scheinfeld’s approach is to give the viewer the forest, point out a few trees and get out, confident that those trees will inspire the viewer to spend more time in the forest.