John Coltrane: Jazz Revolutionary
Rachel Stiffler Barron
Barron has packed an amazing amount of information into this small, 112 page book for "young adults" (middle and high schoolers), part of Morgan Reynolds' Masters of Music series. One of the author's chief virtues is that she does not talk down to her readers. She does a great job of explaining jazz, bop, modes and "sheets of sound" on just the right level. She is very frank about Coltrane's addictions and their effect on his musical career and relationships. Barron frequently describes Trane's constant search for musical knowledge, self-improvement and avenues of expression. Another well-made point is his support for young musicians.
A couple of well-known pieces of jazz lore are missing. One is the incident, recounted by Benny Golson in Bill Crow's book Jazz Anecdotes and elsewhere, of seeing a young John Coltrane "walking the bar" (for the last time!). The other is Miles Davis' cryptic advice on how to avoid taking such long solos: "Take the horn out of your mouth". Admittedly minor points, but they would have added a dash of color. Other minor points: Coltrane's saxophonist newphews are mentioned but not named (Earl and Carl Grubbs, a.k.a "The Visitors"). Olatunji is mentioned but not described as a drummer. Barron states that Coltrane added a saxophonist to his group but doesn't name Pharoah Sanders. The Discography, which follows the text along with Sources, Bibliography and Websites, ends in 1964.
John Coltrane: Jazz Revolutionary includes fourteen black and white photos.