I can’t type fast enough.
Out of respect, there are no “spoilers” in this blog. For those of you that knew or know about John Coltrane, I apologize for my ignorance. For those of you curious about jazz or neophytes like myself, please go see this movie.
At least once a month I try to pay respect to art in some way…take myself out of the occupation of life to remember the quality of life. I’ve been challenging my definition of things lately.
I just viewed the 10:50am show of “Chasing Trane” at E Street cinema. The movies there are usually independent and not main stream. When I leave this theater, I’m usually positively provoked or transformed in some way and today was no different…today was exceptional.
“Chasing Trane” is a documentary about John Coltrane. This is what a movie, about musicians… especially jazz musicians, is supposed to be. The backdrop of racial disharmony, drugs, spirituality, love and the evolution of the artistic merits, influences and then finally perseverance.
Having seeing “Miles Ahead”, the biographical movie about Miles Davis, my expectations were low. This is not a denunciation of Don Cheadle’s work, but the movies are just not artistically, factually or spiritually in the same category. Yes, they’re both biographical movies, but I’m so glad that I viewed “Miles Ahead” first. “Miles Ahead” can easier be compared to “Purple Rain” or “Thriller” than it should even be mentioned in the same sentence as “Chasing Trane”. Whether it be educational or entertainment, I love them all for what they represent, but “Chasing Trane” was a journey. I was excited about what I was seeing, like an “Unsung” episode, without the tragic ending. This movie resets a standard for me and I want to see it again.
I don’t allow influences like Rotten Tomatoe ratings or critics tell me what I’m supposed to like. Like everyone…things just taste different. Similar to jazz musicians, you probably won’t understand their walk or their challenges, but you can appreciate those adversities transformed into art.
Throughout watching this movie, if you didn’t grasp what was happening to you, the testimonies of Bill Clinton, Wynton Marsalis, Common, Sonny Rollins, Common, Benny Golson and especially Ben Ratliff and Lewis Porter tethered the viewer to the experience. Carlos Santana is not only a guide in this movie, throughout the journey, the “shaman” helps your spirit through the organic process. Director, John Scheinfeld, fashioned this musical documentary without allowing the narrative to be dominated by one component. The word “documentary” itself is not a good enough label to capture what this movie did to me personally. It was holistic, not because of the facts but the artistic, visual, and photographic montage was almost overwhelming.
There were times when you witnessed fatherhood where I was definitely emotional. His loss at the age of twelve, then to his addiction and evolution as a musician even how he loved. It was a remarkable voyage. There was a scene where you could see something emanating from the band…like an aura…it was really a spiritual thing to witness.
How this is relevant material for my audience?
This movie, hands down, speaks to young black men in every facet of life, but it doesn’t just focus on drugs or love or spirituality or music…it focuses on LIFE. Jazz, like many art forms, is birthed out of adversity and it is a conduit of creativity. Jazz is reverent to me because it’s origins are African-American or black and ancestral to me. Dr. Cornell West’s words and testimony to the human condition, in this movie, aligns to the black man’s reality in this country. His statements reverberated in my core. The trajectory of a black man’s life can be easily altered by decisions we don’t get to make over. This movie, hands down, speaks about John Coltrane, a black man, who rose out of the ashes to make mistakes, ignite and burn new ashes for himself, and then rise out of those self-inflicted ashes. John ascends to levels of brilliance that challenged the constructs of the very genre he rose to dominate. There’s a comparison to intelligence and Albert Einstein…yes it’s in there. (Ok…one small spoiler) This forward thinking only comes from being courageous enough to embark.
I don’t even have a category for this blog.
People sometimes pose the question:
“Who would you want to meet in history?”
I honestly never had a good answer or not an answer that I felt I believed, but yeah, now I do. Not to ask him questions or converse, but just to hear him, in person, play. Like in the movie, “The Matix”, they say you don’t know a person until you fight them.
Like my singing bowl, I want to feel it travel through my body.
In this case, I just want to hear Mr. Coltrane play and feel it in my soul.