on 31 March 2014
I do enjoy reading biographies about my favourite musicians. However, even though I'm a musician of more than 30 years myself, I take no great interest in reading about the minutiae of the musical pieces themselves. So while I do love to hear about a musician's background, their influences, how they lived and who they worked with, the specifics of individual progressions or chord changes within a particular piece of music don't particularly float my boat. It's not the academia, rather the person that I want to know about. In that respect, Chasin' The Trane ticks all the right boxes. It's a biography, not a musical analysis. Yes, I would agree with the other reviewers here that it's very much a book of its time but astrology, religion and their effect on a individual's world view (particularly this individual's world view) ultimately influenced how he lived and, in some ways, what he wrote and how.
My only slight reservation is that on occasion the (very interesting and often insightful) quotes from friends and colleagues are not always in order. So, you'll be reading about one time period, then there will be a quote from someone talking about something 18 months later, then you'll return to the original timeline, gradually catching up over the following few pages' narrative.
All in all though, a thoroughly enjoyable book that doesn't dwell on the technicalities but rather focuses on the man and his life. Excellent.
on 31 December 1998
This book is not a scholarly monograph. It does not contain much in the way of music criticism. It is simply an entertaining documentary-style portrayal of one of the greatest American musicians of all time. That is not necessarily an argument the author is trying to make. You sense that he is one of the greats, in terms of his impact, by seeing what Coltrane's cohorts and colleagues say about him. Thomas connects the testimonies in an extremely fluid manner, with good prose, and plenty of context. I believe the book portrays well what Coltrane means to people as a person and artist.