on 11 June 1997
It is difficult, I believe, to write a biography about a man such as John Coltrane without annoying the reader. When listening to John Coltrane, one person responds to a slight turn of notes, a particular sound heard. Two people probably respond to different turns and different sounds from one another, yet the music is nonetheless moving. In regards to this book, I find the author's discussions on what John Coltrane must have been thinking to be particularly irritating. Who truly knows what somebody is thinking? How can you take music, a nonrepresentative form of art, and conclude that a concrete thought is represented or a specific notion is held in mind? I would argue that you can't. This occurs throughout this book and is unsettling.
Most interesting about this biography is the subject matter, if one knows the music. John Coltrane must be listened to again and again to be felt, especially for one who is unfamiliar with jazz. Then, one unexpected day, you might hear a phrase lasting 1 second in the middle of a ten minute solo which will change the way you listen to music. For the tribute and information, I rate this book above average. For the psychoanalysis and often harsh criticism of other artists, I would hold back praise.
on 28 April 1997
Not a replacement for the classics focused on Coltrane's personal life, nor a complete exploration of the relationship between Muslim militancy and 'Trane's music, but easily the best, most holistic treatment of the musical and sociological/spiritual factors working through Coltrane's music. In addition to being the best-written book on Coltrane's *music* (rather than focusing on his personal life), brief excursions exploring other significant figures (not just the likes of Miles and Ornette but people like Sun Ra and Albert Ayler) place Coltrane's ground-breaking and timeless work into perspective.