448

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count
Coltrane: the Story of a Sound
Ben Ratliff
Hardcover; 250 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-374-12606-3
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2007

New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff's new John Coltrane study is really two books in one. The first is a concise, convincing assessment of the evolution of Coltrane's music from his early days as a not particularly distinctive bebop saxophonist through his apprenticeships with Miles and Monk to his seminal achievement with the classic quartet of the '60s and his final role as a free-jazz trailblazer.

The second, more important part, examines Coltrane's legacy and what it was that's made him not just one of the major figures in jazz, but also arguably its most revered, even worshipped artist, considered by some to be, in Ratliff's term, a "near-saint . Drawing on interviews with Coltrane peers, as well as younger musicians, Ratliff places Coltrane's musical breakthroughs within larger cultural and political contexts, while also considering where the Coltrane influence stands today. (Ratliff's view: the Coltrane influence remains strong on today's jazz scene, though it's no longer quite as pervasive as a generation ago, when his contemporaries were often overwhelmed and overshadowed by his memory.)

Perhaps most significantly, Ratliff stresses that for all Coltrane's individual virtuosity and deeply personal vision, his triumphs, like those of Duke Ellington, were achieved within the context of a working band. Coltrane always had a group of highly talented and receptive musicians at his side that played an essential role in helping him work out and develop his sound. Unlike today, these groups had the luxury of time on their side, with clubs affording them steady, if low-paying, gigs lasting from several weeks to as long as six months in the case of Monk and Coltrane's legendary 1957 stand at the Five Spot. More important for the future of jazz than record label support is the opening of clubs that let musicians "play and play and then play some more, Ratliff says. "The truth of jazz, he concludes, "is in its bands.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read David Bowie: Behind the Curtain Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966 Book Reviews The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Dafnis Prieto: A World Of Rhythmic Possibilities" Book Reviews Dafnis Prieto: A World Of Rhythmic Possibilities
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz" Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and The Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day" Book Reviews Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks" Book Reviews I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 6, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.