Thursday, June 17, 2004

Imagine... Saint John Coltrane

Just watched this on BBC 1. This Guardian article sums up the only misgivings I had with how it was made: sound and image not always matching up, the narrator's more than dubious claim that John Coltrane more or less invented the avant-garde and glossing over Coltrane's struggle to actually become THE John Coltrane.

Otherwise, there was lots of compelling stuff. The paintings of Coltrane as an icon, with a halo around his head, were rather scary, though it was nice to get a feel for the African Orthodox Church of St. John Coltrane after reading so many mentions of it. I'd never heard Coltrane's voice before, so that was nice. Bravely, the soundtrack included as much wild, free stuff as gorgeous ballad playing. However, despite a sampling of Blue Train, his pre-Quartet, more bop-related style was absent. Every time I hear Coltrane or Miles Davis (there was also some footage of them playing together, which was marred by poor sound: a buzz was added to everything they played), I wonder why I listen to anything else: the power of their music truly is something else.

Peripherally, Eric Dolphy was shown briefly on flute. I've always found that his goattee gave him the coolest profile in jazz. Andre 3000 looks a lot like him. McCoy Tyner is seen playing, both then and now. What an odd hand/finger position he has. However, the snippet we got to hear from some playing he did for the camera was awesome. Archie Shepp also talked and played, but, shot as his chops are (and as much as I enjoyed seeing him live), I'm not sure it made for good TV.