The world according to John Coltrane is a place we all wish to live.
He lived, influenced innumerable musicians, and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in music history. The world according to John Coltrane. Coltrane’s spiritual journey was interwoven with his investigation of world music. He believed not only in a universal musical structure that transcended ethnic distinctions, but in being able to harness the mystical language of music itself. Coltrane’s study of Indian music led him to believe that certain sounds and scales could “produce specific emotional meanings.” According to Coltrane, the goal of a musician was to understand these forces, control them, and elicit a response from the audience. Coltrane said: “I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.”
The influence Coltrane has had on music spans many genres and musicians. Coltrane’s massive influence on jazz, both mainstream and avant-garde, began during his lifetime and continued to grow after his death. He is one of the most dominant influences on post-1960 jazz saxophonists and has inspired an entire generation of jazz musicians.
In 1965, Coltrane was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1972, A Love Supreme was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over half a million copies in Japan. This album, as well as My Favorite Things, was certified gold in the United States in 2001. In 1982 he was awarded a posthumous Grammy for “Best Jazz Solo Performance” on the album Bye Bye Blackbird, and in 1997 he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Coltrane one of his 100 Greatest African Americans. Coltrane was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007 citing his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.” He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
In his short life, John Coltrane continually pushed the boundaries of music. From swing to bebop to hard bop to free jazz, Coltrane was a restless seeker of new sounds. Inspired by the hypnotic, trance-inducing traditional music of North Africa and Asia, Coltrane created a new kind of music that fused jazz and Eastern spirituality.
The World According to John Coltrane tells the story of Coltrane’s quest, from his childhood in a deeply religious household in North Carolina to his early days playing saxophone in the Navy. From to his apprenticeship with Miles Davis in the 1950s and his emergence as a bandleader and innovator in the 1960s. Most of the one-hour film is devoted to Coltrane’s later period, when he came into his own. The film is not a biography, in the traditional sense. There is very little about Coltrane’s personal life — his marriages, children, drug problems and declining health. Director Robert Palmer focuses instead on Coltrane’s journey as a musician.
The World According to John Coltrane was made in 1990, and includes interviews with Coltrane’s second wife, pianist Alice Coltrane, and a number of other musicians who knew Coltrane and played with him, including saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Rashied Ali and Pianist Tommy Flanagan. It provides some excellent insights into one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians.