Sometimes you just have to sit in awe of true greatness…
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is hardly something that reinvents the wheel but it effectively highlights the raw power of genius artistry at work.
It’s a glimpse into genius with never-before-seen Coltrane family home movies, footage of John Coltrane and band in the studio (discovered in a California garage during production of this film), along with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and rare television appearances from around the world, Coltrane’s incredible story is told by the musicians that worked with him (Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Reggie Workman), musicians that have been inspired by his fearless artistry and creative vision (Common, John Densmore, Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Kamasi Washington), and many other contemporaries who discuss and place Coltrane’s legacy in the modern landscape today.
While it goes by the numbers in a fairly standard way, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is a truly beautiful effort in simplicity and efficiency telling us a story through the timeless music and images and stories of the man who created them.
Writer/Director John Scheinfeld shapes the film so smartly and with such subtlety that you forget someone is actually helming this story. It has an effortless flow to it much like the music that came out of Coltrane’s horn on a nightly basis without hitting us over the head with how important and seminal his work truly was. The film allows the audiences to get a sampling like a song you hear in a club or on the radio that hooks you in and makes you want more and more.
The testimonials he uses from a wide variety of subjects is balanced and nuanced even though you can feel the overt warmth in every single subjects voice as they speak on the influence that Coltrane not only had on themselves but on the creative ethos as an entirety and allows us to appreciate the scope of the man’s music, even to this day. Thankfully the archival footage and vintage performances that we get treated to back all these claims up and then some as Schenfeld manages a tone that balances the desires of the jazz heads and aficionados as well as allowing the uninitiated to come along for the ride thanks to the narration by the one and only Denzel Washington.
This is one of those instances when being conventional actual works as a positive since Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary holds our hand diving into the world of jazz and only lets go when it’s sure that we want to swim in it all for as long as we possibly can.