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John Coltrane Died Today in History. Learn About Sam Pollard's New Documentary + Watch 'World According To Coltrane'

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 17, 2014 11:23 AM
5 Comments
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Today in history... July 17, 1967, John William Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital in Long Island, NY.

He was just 40 years young.

Since his death, my research tells me that there hasn't been what I'd call a "high-profile," definitive film (whether scripted or documentary) on Coltrane's life, or even just some aspect of, or period within it. And I think that's quite sad! His music is universally known and loved, but apparently just not enough to inspire those with the financial resources to tell his life story (or some specific story within those 40 years) in a feature film. 

Meanwhile, there's a rush to make films about those who weren't even born when he died, and on whose music Coltrane's was of some influence and inspiration, whether directly or indirectly.

Don Cheadle is finally getting to make his Miles Davis film, after years of financing struggles. It's just amazing to me that films about legends like these 2 (Coltrane and Davis) are practically non-existent, and seemingly face immense challenges stalling their realization. 

Long-time Spike Lee editor (as well as director and producer in his own right) Sam Pollard, has been working on a John Coltrane documentary for a couple of years now (we first learned about it in the fall of 2012), currently titled "A Love Supreme: A Portrait of John Coltrane in 4 Parts," which is said to be based on the critically-acclaimed book "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album" by music journalist Ashley Kahn.

Details say that "A Love Supreme: A Portrait of John Coltrane in 4 Parts" will be structured in the same way as Coltrane's influential 1964 album of the same name. The album is divided into four parts: "Acknowledgement," "Resolution," "Pursuance," and "Psalm." It will feature interviews with Coltrane's band-mates and friends, as well as historians and music journalists, artists, and people of faith who were inspired by the album.

Also, and interestingly, Pollard has said that he plans to use animation to help tell Coltrane's story, and I'm very curious as to how he plans to implement/incorporate.

There certainly have been other docs on Coltrane, like the hour-long 1990 documentary "The World According To John Coltrane." But Pollard's sounds wholly original in its style and structure, and I've been looking forward to it since I first learned about it almost 2 years ago.

No word on when it can be expected, although I'd assume we're about a year, or less, away from a premiere. Maybe Sundance 2015, where Pollard's last feature documentary, "Slavery by Another Name," premiered 2 years ago.

In the meantime, below, watch the hour-long 1990 documentary "The World According To John Coltrane," which was made in cooperation with Coltrane's then widow Alice Coltrane. And feel free to list your favorite John Coltrane moments/tracks in the comments section below.

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5 Comments

  • Ava | July 18, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    In addition My Favorite Things, I have A Love Supreme in my collection (alas CD, not vinyl) and it is sublime.

  • vagabond | July 18, 2014 1:44 AMReply

    If a Coltrane biopic is made i hope they get Dennis Haysbert for 'Trane... He looks like him and has that calm, cool, gravitas that Coltrane had...

  • CareyCarey | July 17, 2014 2:14 PMReply

    "There's a shot of him accepting a Downbeat Award at a banquet, where the master of ceremonies solely informs him that jazz is color blind (if so, then why the reassurance?)". ~ Roger Ebert

    Although Mr. Ebert could have been referring to Miles Davis or John Coltrane, actually, in his review of Clint Eastwood's "Bird", he was speaking of Charlie Parker. I mention that because regardless of which jazz icon is the talk of today, a movie featuring any one of them will face the same problems in the USA - color matters.

    On that note, here's a few more eye-opening words from my favorite film critic, Rodger Ebert.

    "He was haunted all of his days by drug addiction, but for many years he doesn't seem to have been filled with the RAGE of MOST addicts. He seems to have regarded addiction as a burden to carry, and seems to have been resigned to carrying it while not wishing it on anybody"

    Now, who was Mr. Ebert referring to that time? Well, it must have been a black man, right? White drug addicts like Robert Downing Jr, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Heath ledger never showed rage, did they? Only black men get angry, right?

    I am suggesting Rodger Ebert knows little to nothing about the life and time of an Addict. And maybe, even though he was my favorite film critic, maybe he was unconsciously implying all black people fighting an addiction are filled with rage, which is an unfortunate and misinformed characterization of anyone fighting an illness.

    Anyway, the beat goes on, he was talking about Charlie Parker, a black musical icon with a drug addiction. As with John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, James Brown and Charlie Parker, their stories will... well... since color always matters, their stories will remain a hard sell in the USA.

  • Douglas Gill | July 17, 2014 3:37 PM

    Right on.

  • Douglas Gill | July 17, 2014 12:28 PMReply

    As much as I LOVE Coltrane I would rather see a biography of Ron McNair, Bessie Coleman, or Bayard Rustin at this point.

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