Chasing Trane: A Review, An Appreciation, A Spiritual Awakening

chasing-traneBy Al Perlman
Editor and Publisher, Jazz Collector

It is the day after Thanksgiving here in the States and one of the things I am grateful for is the new John Coltrane documentary Chasing Trane, written and directed by John Scheinfeld. I was fortunate to see this film on the closing night of DOC NYC, the New York documentary film festival. It was a week ago last Thursday and it has had a deep emotional impact on me that is still resonating, which I will discuss in a bit. But first let me tell you about the film.

First off, Scheinfeld is a terrific documentary filmmaker, IMHO. I am a huge fan of two of his earlier movies, The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Who is Harry Nilsson . . .? I knew virtually nothing about Nilsson when I watched that film and I’ve since recommended it to all of my friends and family, and now to all of my readers here at Jazz Collector. Perhaps because of Scheinfeld’s reputation, the Coltrane family welcomed him to do this film and gave him access to Coltrane’s music, archives and even home movies.

In Chasing Trane, Scheinfeld has created a moving and inspirational tribute to one of the great musicians and spiritual influences of our times. He uses film footage and photos of Coltrane, some never before seen, interspersed with comments from a wide range of friends, family, fans, biographers and other admirers. I was personally moved by the comments from Coltrane contemporaries and close friends, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson and, especially, Sonny Rollins. And I was surprised and impressed by the depth of knowledge and connection to Coltrane’s music and spirit expressed by former President Bill Clinton. But I was not surprised by how often some of these commentators were at a loss for words to describe Coltrane’s music or his influence because, as Sonny says, the only way to truly understand and feel the music is

to experience it.

And, of course, there is Coltrane’s music, ever-present as a soundtrack to the film. Scheinfeld spoke at the viewing I attended, and he said it contains 48 pieces of music from all eras of the Coltrane canon. There’s the first audio clip of Trane doing “Hot House” when he was 20 years old in a U.S. Navy Band, and there’s a really nice video that I had never seen of Trane playing “I Want to Talk About You.” And there are moments when you hear the music and it is almost impossible not to well up in tears, particularly the scenes surrounding “Alabama” and, for me, just hearing the opening notes of “A Love Supreme.”

The movie does not follow a straight chronological path. It starts with a conceit that puts Coltrane at a turning point in his life: It is early 1957 and Coltrane has just been fired from the Miles Davis Quintet because his addiction to heroin has made him too unreliable. He has a wife, Naima, and a step-daughter, whose comments about Trane in the movie are particularly poignant and moving. As the film frames it, Coltrane can follow one of two paths: He can quit heroin and turn his life around or he can follow the path of his hero Charlie Parker and die a young and tragic death.

Coltrane, as we all know, quits cold turkey and emerges as a new man, thankful to God for the gifts of this world and determined to express his appreciation and devotion in the only way he knows how, through his music. And of course, he then goes on a creative, artistic and spiritual quest the likes of which we have perhaps never seen over a 10-year period by any artist in any medium. Clinton eloquently compares Coltrane’s output to Picasso’s, while pointing out the brief period of time Coltrane had to explore and express his genius. Thankfully, we can all chronicle and awe at Coltrane’s incredible growth and musical output through his records, which, of course, are what we normally talk about here.

Most of you, our community at Jazz Collector, know the stories and the music from this period, and I would bet that many of us own every Coltrane recording from that era, as I do. Even with that, however, Scheinfeld takes us on an unexpected ride, particularly towards the end of the movie when the setting shifts to Japan. But I will stop here because I know you will all see this film and this aspect is central to the second part of this story, which I am about to tell. In summary, I know you will all love this film and feel blessed and grateful that Coltrane’s story was put in the care of a fine craftsman and artist in Scheinfeld.

In terms of when you may be able to see Chasing Trane: It sounded as if the producers are still working out distribution arrangements and it probably won’t be available for public release until later next year, perhaps in the autumn. You can all take a look at the Web site for details and be sure to view the trailer.

Chasing Trane: Beyond the Film

And now, for those of you still with me, I would like to talk about my personal connection to this film and why I found it to be so profound and moving, to the point where I cannot even talk about it without getting emotional. I know this is not our normal format at Jazz Collector, and this post is really two posts in one, hence the subtitle above. But as we know so well from Coltrane, it’s perfectly okay and, in fact, vitally important that we break through the normal conventional boundaries whenever it is necessary.

I was in a very bad emotional state when I saw Chasing Trane. I had been following the election coverage obsessively. I don’t want to get into politics here, but in the course of the election I had reached certain conclusions about Donald Trump that made me fearful of what might happen if he became President. None of my fears may be true, nor may they fit in with anyone else’s narrative, but it was what I believed to my absolute core. So, when he was elected president I was truly shaken. I turned the television off at 9:30 on election night and have not turned it on since. I stopped reading the newspapers because I was angry at and distrustful of the media.

Then I went into a real tailspin. I couldn’t sleep. I went deep into the rabbit hole and had visions of Apocalypse. First, that Trump and his cronies were going to take away our democracy and we would never again have a legitimate election. Then I went even bleaker: that Trump would purposefully or inadvertently begin a nuclear war that would end the world. For three nights after the election I didn’t sleep and didn’t share my fears with anyone. Finally, on Saturday morning, I broke down.

Many of you may recall that my wife, whom we affectionately refer to here as The Lovely Mrs. JC, is a psychotherapist, and thank God for that. I was despondent, in deep despair. I had another sleepless night on Saturday. On Sunday we went to a meditation group and I broke down once again in front of everyone, sobbing uncontrollably. I had two more sleepless nights on Sunday and Monday, my mind absolutely convinced that the world was coming to an end and there was no way to stop it. When The Lovely Mrs. JC woke up on Tuesday morning I broke down again and said, please, I need help.

She reached out to a psychiatrist that she knows and I reached out to a psychotherapist I had seen before. The psychiatrist said he would be able to see me on Wednesday evening, the next day. Knowing that I was going to get some help, I was able to focus on work on Tuesday and make it through the day. I had another difficult night on Tuesday, but I found it comforting to have turned off all media, so I was not exposed to the fear and hatred that I believed had been fomenting in the days following the election. I met with the psychiatrist at 5 p.m. Wednesday. For 45 minutes he patiently listened to my stories of sleepless nights and Apocalypse, of my distrust of the media, of my anger and disappointment and, most of all, my fear and sense of impending doom.

He said it was clear that I would need medication to help me deal with the anxiety, to help me begin sleeping again. In thinking aloud about which medication may be best for me, he said he also observed that I may have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I smiled. I am, after all, the man with 8,000 jazz records, the man who had to quit playing Fantasy Football because I had become too consumed with making every perfect decision, to the point where on my vacation in Italy last fall I set my alarm for 2:30 in the morning on both Monday and Tuesday to listen to football games on my iPad. Yes, I figured, the doctor probably knew what he was talking about.

He prescribed Xanax. I went to the pharmacy immediately after my session and picked up the bottle. I took a pill, .5 MG, when I got home. I slept for 10 hours, straight through. It was my first moment of peace in a week. On Thursday I felt much better when I woke up. I was still avoiding all television, newspapers, social media, everything. Then I went into the elevator in my building to walk Marty the dog at 8 a.m. Sometimes there is no escape. There’s a television in the elevator and I saw a 20-second clip of that vile woman Kellyanne Conway. I could immediately feel the anxiety forming in my guts and in my chest. It was a physical reaction. I went back to my apartment, took half of a Xanax and meditated for 20 minutes. I felt much better, no angst in my gut. I went to work and was fine the rest of the morning.

I saw my son, Michael, later that day and it was a huge help. He has been a great source of help through this ordeal, as has been my daughter Sharon and son-in-law Justin. At a time of trouble, it is wonderful to know that people you love are there for you, and that’s how they made me feel, not just my wife and children but good friends, especially my business partner Mike, and my friends DeeDee and Chris and Danny and Rocco and Carol and Steve and others. Even if I didn’t reach out to all of my friends, knowing that they were there was a source of comfort.

Michael and I had been talking a lot about the election. He was equally concerned, but he was coping with it much better than I was. That day — it is now Thursday, November 17, nine days after the election — we planned to spend together. Michael’s friend had made a movie that was being shown at a documentary film festival in Greenwich Village. So it was lunch and the movies for us. We had a great conversation over lunch that gave me a lot of comfort, even though it was a very dark discussion. I won’t get into the whole thing here, but two points Michael made really resonated. One was that he was not really that afraid of a nuclear Apocalypse. He wasn’t dismissing my fear at all; he was just saying, hey, if we all go, we all go. If there’s nothing left, there won’t be anyone or anything to miss. I don’t know why, but it made me feel better. Then I was saying that I was so afraid of losing our democracy that I was willing to give them Roe V. Wade or healthcare or even gay marriage, just as long as we can still vote and fix these problems sometime in the future. Some would call it the bargaining stage of the five stages of grief. Michael said to be careful with that thinking – that’s how they get us. We get so consumed with fear that we let them take our rights away a little bit at a time. That’s why we have to be vigilant. It’s what terrorism is all about, isn’t it?

This also made me feel better. Not that I was less concerned about what will happen, but somehow it made me less afraid. Then we went to the movies. Michael’s friend Lorenzo Pisoni made a movie called Circus Kid. I’d only met Lorenzo a couple of times, but Michael had told me about his fascinating life. His father owned a circus and Lorenzo started performing from the time he was two. I was really looking forward to the movie. Michael and I were sitting there waiting for it to start, chatting a bit. On the screen they were promoting other movies from the DOC NYC festival.

“Hey Dad,” Michael said. “Did you see that?”
“What?”
“It looks like there’s a Coltrane documentary.”
“Really,” I said. I didn’t think much of it.
“I must have seen it already,” I said. “With Jazz Collector, I’m on a lot of distribution lists. If there was a new Coltrane documentary I’m sure I’d know about it.”
Michael pulled out his cell phone. “Let me look it up,” he said. And then he did.
“I think it’s brand new,” he said.
“Really?”
“Yes, and tonight is the only performance. Seven PM.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“I have plans for tonight,” I said. I was supposed to attend a small event at Lincoln Center at 6:30 PM.
Then I thought for a few seconds. And I turned to Michael.
“You know how I feel about Coltrane,” I said.
“Of course,” he replied.
“He’s been a tremendous influence on my life.”
“I know.”
“You know,” I continued, “Two, three hundred years from now, if the world survives, I think Coltrane will be remembered as one of the three seminal figures of jazz, the way we now remember Mozart or Beethoven or Bach.”
“Who are the others?”
“Again, this is just my opinion, but it will be Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.”
“Interesting,” Michael said.
Then we sat there for a couple more minutes, quiet.
Then I finally said: “You know, I should really go to this Coltrane documentary.”
“Of course you should,” Michael replied.

Then Lorenzo’s movie started and it was wonderful. Very moving, a fascinating story, extremely well told. And it wasn’t really about growing up in a circus. It was about growing up, period. It was about family and fathers and relationships and life. I loved it and was thrilled that Michael had suggested it. We said hello to Lorenzo after the movie, wished him great success and headed towards the subway. I got home, immediately went on line and purchased a single ticket for Chasing Trane. I felt my body surging with excitement. I hadn’t thought about the election in hours.

I got to the theater around 6:30. There was a long line to get in. I was surprised. “Is this all for the Coltrane documentary?” I asked at the box office. “Yes.” It was a huge theater, but it seemed as if it was nearly sold out. When I got in, I took a seat towards the middle of the auditorium. I looked around. “Wait a second,” I could hear me thinking to myself as I looked to my left at a short black man sitting in the next row. “Is that Jimmy Heath? Really? Is that Jimmy Heath?” And then I answered: “Yeah, that’s Jimmy Heath.” I smiled a big smile. I’m seeing a John Coltrane documentary with Jimmy Heath. Wow, how cool is that!

There was a technical glitch and to fill the time the filmmaker John Scheinfeld shared some stories about how he came to do the film and how he was able to find some rare footage that had never been seen before. It just whetted my appetite and heightened my anticipation even more. Then, finally, the film started.

There was the first sound of Coltrane’s music. And some interesting illustrations and then a photograph of Coltrane himself. My eyes filled with tears. It was such an emotional moment for me, it is hard to describe in words. I felt as if I was experiencing something deeply spiritual. I didn’t understand it at first, but then I remembered moments, little snapshots in my life where Coltrane was simply there for me.

I was 17. My high school girlfriend had just broken up with me. Most of my friends had gone away to school. I didn’t get into a single college to which I applied, so I had to go to Queens College. I had only two close friends still at home, Paul and Danny. It was also the time I discovered jazz, thank God, which was like a lifeline and a story I shared previously at Jazz Collector in the memoir Song For My Father, the only other post on this site that in any way resembles this one.

I was depressed and felt all alone. I must have been suffering from some kind of social anxiety as well because I felt that everyone was staring at me all the time, wherever I went, all of them keenly aware that I was this very lonely, very sad teenager. The times between classes, when I had nothing to do and no one to talk to, were the most difficult of all. Then, through my best friend Dan Axelrod, I discovered that Queens College had an extensive music listening library. It was a very weird little place, as I recall, almost underground, where they had about eight turntables in the front of the room and maybe 20 or 30 listening stations where you could put on headphones and listen to any of the records that were playing on the turntables. In front of each turntable was a little stand where they would put the front cover of the record so you could decide which record to hear through your headphones.

Whenever a class would end and I would have a break until the next class, I would walk with great purpose to this music listening library, as if I had an appointment I had to keep and someone very important was waiting for me. And I would get there and every single day, every single time, with no exception, perhaps hundreds of times over the course of two years, I would ask for one record: John Coltrane, My Favorite Things. And the person behind the counter would pull the record from its jacket, put the jacket on the stand facing the room and put the record on the turntable. And I would take a seat, put on the headphones and listen and escape from my sadness, escape from the world. The music somehow transformed me and gave me enormous hope. I can’t tell you why, I can’t tell you how, just as it is impossible to describe the music. I can only tell you that it touched my soul and helped to heal me. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait for a class to end, so I could spend time with my friend and healer, John Coltrane.

There were times when I would listen to both sides of My Favorite Things and there would be more time to kill before my next class. I would ask the person behind the counter to either start it again from side one or get another record for me. The only two other records I ever chose were Giant Steps or A Love Supreme. At that time in my life, probably the lowest I had ever felt, the only music I could turn to, the only person, was John Coltrane, and I was so thankful that he was there for me, that he was the person he was, the musician he was and that the music he made was preserved on record to comfort me in a time of need.

I have felt this feeling about Coltrane many times since, throughout my life, through difficult times and, just as importantly, through joyous times. I can’t tell you how often I sit in front of my record player listening to a Coltrane album just being in awe at the creativity, inspiration and genius before me. Coltrane has also been a major part of my experience here at Jazz Collector over the past 10-plus years, where all of you have been so generous in providing me with the forum and the community to share our love for this music and the great musicians that have created it. And, at the risk of sharing too much information and embarrassing The Lovely Mrs. JC, I know without question that I have made love more often with Coltrane in the background than any other music – Ballads, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Settin’ the Pace, and others. When we got married, the Lovely Mrs. JC and I chose “Every Time We Say Goodbye” as our wedding song, the second song on the first side of My Favorite Things. Coltrane, who died in 1967 when I was just 14 years old, has been there often as a critical companion in some of the most intimate moments of my life.

And all of this came flooding into me as I sat there watching this wonderful tribute to this man who was such a hero of mine. And the film carried me with it on this journey and at some point it comes to A Love Supreme, and, as I said, just hearing the first notes of the album and knowing what it meant to Coltrane, and to me, and to all of us who love and appreciate his music, it brought tears to my eyes once again.

As far as I was concerned Scheinfeld could have stopped the movie right there. I would have been thrilled and I would have felt blessed. But then he took a strange, unexpected and dramatic turn. One of the next images on the screen was the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki, Japan. He lingered on the image. The full mushroom cloud in all its horrific glory. And then he showed images of the victims, the devastation, the destruction, the indescribable inhumanity that human beings are capable of inflicting on one another. And I felt myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat. For days and days I had been lying awake in bed fearing just this kind of Apocalyptic vision. Just hours before I had been sitting in a French bistro on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village with my son Michael, talking about what we both believe is the very real possibility of nuclear devastation. I was having a hard time seeing these images and worried, seriously, that I would have to leave the theater because it was too much for me to contain.

And then the images and the story went back to Coltrane. When he was booking his tour to Japan he insisted that Nagasaki be included on the schedule. When he arrived in Nagasaki after a long flight, his driver came to pick him up and take him to his hotel. Coltrane said no. He had to go immediately to the Nagasaki Peace Park Memorial. And the movie then lingers on an amazing photo of Coltrane standing in prayer in front of a memorial, perhaps the Peace Statue, perhaps something else. I don’t remember the exact story from the film, I wasn’t taking notes, I was totally absorbed, but this is what I took away from it: Coltrane apparently stood in front of the memorial for a considerable length of time, perhaps as much as two hours. When he was done, the driver asked him why. He replied that he needed to feel the pain, hear the sound, feel the heat, hear the cries, experience, as best he could, what the people of Nagasaki experienced when the blast actually occurred.

Again, something stirred inside me. As I had intuited all of my life, this was not an ordinary man. This was a man who had achieved a level of spirituality that few humans can ever achieve. Sonny Rollins says it so beautifully in the movie. He talks about Coltrane being at a higher level, not just musically but spiritually. As far as Sonny is concerned, Coltrane is still there. We need not mourn his passing from this world, Sonny says, because he is and has always been in another world, a world few of us can ever experience or even know about. And the movie closes with a beautiful video of Coltrane, the man, at home on Long Island, enjoying life, enjoying his family, smiling a smile of sheer contentment.

For me it is now a week later and this film is still affecting me deeply. When I met with my psychotherapist this week I broke down crying just telling him about the effect Chasing Trane had on me. Same thing happened when I told my son Michael about it. The film has helped to move me in a direction that I never thought was possible, towards being a more spiritual and spiritually aware person.

But, of course, it’s not the film. It is John Coltrane. And for that, and for him, and for his music, and for his presence in my life, I say Thank You on this blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

 

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34 comments

  • Abrasive_Beautiful

    Thanks, Al. This was a very powerful and personal read. On election night, before any polls had closed or I had turned on the TV, I was already in a rotten mood. I knew I needed music and the only thing I wanted to listen to was A Love Supreme. I listened and read John’s poem and liner notes through a few times and as Resolution came on I got the goosebumps I always get, and I really felt at ease. I am not a religious person, but there is immense power in Coltrane’s message–both in the music and his trust in God that everything is going to work out in the end.

  • Al, thank you for this powerful essay. Coltrane’s music and life philosophy — actually, they are inseparable — had a remarkably similar effect on my life and, has, on more than one occasion given me hope when little seemed anywhere to be found. In my case, it was ‘Naima’, a song I learned to play when I started my studies on the double bass a few years ago. It wasn’t easy — Paul Chambers played bass on ‘Naima’; need i say more? — but it was a powerful experience and thanks for all he has done for me as well.
    Yes, events can be terrifying and so often — actually, almost always — we feel out of control, but Coltrane’s music reminds us that in the center of the storm — like the center of the turntable playing his records — there is perfect stillness.
    I have Coltrane’s picture in my office to remind of that calm, that stillness, especially when the worst seems to have gained the upper hand, and I look forward to seeing this film as soon as possible.

  • I am very excited to see this film. Every documentary or film or movie about jazz musicians that is even halfway well-made is always fun for me, and it sounds like this one is top, top quality. Very cool.

    I relate to your concern pretty heavily, Al. I have suffered from what I now to be acute anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, though I just really got help for it about 8 years ago, and this election made a lot of it come back, and then when the election actually happened, I was a pretty big wreck, but now I am beginning to hope that it won’t be so bad. Who knows.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Just know that you’re not alone.

  • Thank you for this essay. It hit home with me.
    I think the question is which is the strongest and most enduring — this country (us) or Trump (a few mega-corporations) — my bet is on us.

  • Yes, I’m with you, Al, and I thank you for this post. Hope to see the film when it screens again.

  • Wonderful testimony, one that I relate to strongly. Music has been the only thing that has kept the dread at bay. For me it’s been the reissue of Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band. I picked it up out of curiosity and I found it unbelievably cathartic. I’m as surprised by that as anyone. I’ve listened to it daily for weeks. That and late Beethoven. I have several Coltrane albums, I’ll add those to the rotation. Thanks for writing in a personal vein, it’s useful to know that I’m not alone in being concerned to the point of paranoia.

  • I like Yoko Ono too.

  • Thanks for sharing such a personal and poignant essay. Glad to hear that you are taking positive steps to wrap your head around the events of the past couple of weeks and remembering through it all that November 8th was not The Day The Music Died.

    Can’t wait to see the Trane documentary and appreciate you tipping us all off to it.

  • listening to coltrane as i thank you for this intimate and powerful post which reflected my own feelings of the election so precisely.

  • thanks Al for your impressive openness. I read this site for some years, but this is the first time I leave a reply. Your essay really struck me. As a European it is great to hear this thoughts from your country. And of course I wish you strenght (and for times of not enough strength enough pills)
    About Coltrane: next thursday it is 54 years ago that I, as a 14 year old starting saxophone player, visited my first concert. It was the Coltrane quartet at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. My parents were not that much into music, but nevertheless they bought me a ticket (I went alone) for this evening that I’ll never forget and that made a everlasting impression on me. They played My Favourite Things amongst others.

    ps I don’t really like Yoko, but if I had to choose between her and Trump, I’d give her my everlasting love

  • Thank you, Al. You are certainly not alone in your experience. It was many years ago for me but there has been more than one period in my life where I suffered from a similar type of rather intense anxiety so I can empathize. Please know that you will find a way to overcome it and find peace of mind, body, and spirit.

  • Thanks so very much for your openness with all of us, Al. It took great courage to “expose” your innermost self and I, for one, deeply resonate with all you have said. For me the reaction to the horror of the election results was one of all-consuming rage, which is as much of a “shut down” reaction as grief and is just so hard to diminish that it controls my life. It is so empowering to hear your words and to know that i am not alone in my worry and anxiety. Coltrane’s music is pure and totally candid and so very healing for me too. When my exwife more or less kidnapped my son and I did not know where he was for several weeks the only thing that kept me functioning was listening to A Love Supreme every evening while trying to get some sleep. Coltrane is so much more than mortal; his music is eternal beneficence and a day without listening to his music (or Mozart’s : the only other music that I feel is on this plane) is arduous and sad. I think the strongest thing any person can possess is a sense of hope and without music’s healing beauty there really is not much hope. May all of us gentle souls be as one knowing that we are loved by the great gift that Coltrane gave to us. It’s a very, very difficult time. Blessings to all the good people that are left on this ugly planet and all praise be to the living spirit of John Coltrane, the master.

  • Thanks Al….

  • Beste Willem H,

    Ik zou je graag wat dingen willen vragen over onder andere dat concert waar je bij was. Als je mij een mail stuurt zal ik het je verduidelijken, liever niet hier online.

    Vriendelijke groet,

    Bootsy Akkerman
    b.akkerman10@gmail.com

  • i don’t know if you remember me writing before, but i was the high school kid in Syracuse who was moved by your writings and reviews in the Syracuse New Times to delve deeply into jazz. again, thank you for that. in a certain twist, i too am a psychotherapist. thank you again for sharing your story and experiences. they were very moving and i hope they offer the option of hope to others who may be faced with similar feelings and thoughts. take care. peace is out there-ks

  • Al, I have enjoyed this site, your posts, and your knowledge since the day I came across it. The primary theme of the work has been Ebay auctions of great jazz records; I have digested it all. The secondary theme has been the love of jazz vinyl in general. Tertiary has been the community of those commenting and reflecting on their own love and experience with 1 and 2 above. Then there has been this other thread running through it all… a man who loves jazz, his wife, his work (seemingly), and his frolicking about between residences and the distinct collections. But there have been intentional tips of the hand in many instances. In this post, you lay your cards fully on the table, a rare commentary on politics, health, medicine, and… (wait for it)… jazz. Thank you. We, your readers, are better because of your post.

  • As Al’s business colleague for 37 years–and his friend for pretty much all of that time–I am not surprised to read him wax rhapsodic about Coltrane. Even though I am not a jazz aficionado myself, I know enough about the genre–and have heard Al talk reverently about the man and his music–to understand that he is the Willie Mays of jazz. (In my mind’s eye, I can see Al chuckling at that baseball reference.)

    Yes, I am the “Mike, my business partner” referred to up the near the top of Al’s post, and it’s been my honor and joy to have been Al’s friend for so long. And, as these things often happen among business partners, I share many of Al’s values–most of them, actually. That includes his political philosophy and his fears about what the election foretells. But in the end, we have to fall back on the things we hold in highest value, be it family, friends or just a faith in the basic goodness of people and the core ethics of our society. Don’t worry Al, we’ll all find a way to get through this together and come out of the darkness into the light. Giving up is simply not an option–as Coltrane apparently knew.

  • 1st time posting…thanks Al, I can identify with your thoughts and feelings. I need to get educated on Coltrane. I’ll start with My Favorite Things. Chris

  • Al, thanks for the great film review and the wonderful story of how Coltrane affected your life. When I was a young man and first saw a b&w film from Europe of his quartet, it moved me spiritually as well. I’m sure John Coltrane never truly understood how many people he touched.

  • Hey Al,

    Thanks so much for getting this out there. It’s inspired me to more deeply engage with my own anxieties, to interrogate and reflect. I’m also moved to relearn how central art is in your well-being, so much so that it propels your own generous creation.

    Fondly,
    Charlie Thurston

  • Al, very nice post and great story about your feelings after election day and the John Coltrane film review (I hope to see the film very soon). Back to collecting jazz records, this I think is a new entry in the 1000 $ bin:
    http://www.ebay.it/itm/201720325050?clk_rvr_id=1132134357123&rmvSB=true

  • Regarding Giovannl’s post above… can anyone explain the ridiculously high price of this Lateef lp?

  • This is why I love doing this site: Here it is, I spill my guts and it’s let’s move on to important stuff like the price of a Yusef Lateef LP. I love it, really. Just to keep everyone updated: I’m doing great, fantastic, I do plan to reply to some of the comments, but I am also not quite ready to move on to the usual eBay stuff. Actually, I am trying to drive more traffic to the site, specifically for this article. The response has been so rewarding that I frankly want more people to see it. I’m issuing a press release today and I’ll probably go on Facebook as well. Having said that, anything you can do to spread the word and share the article with friends, family, anyone, would be most appreciated. I’ll be back soon.

  • Craig Holiday Haynes

    Thanks for your determination, diligence and insight! I still remember times that John Coltrane came to my house and Even as a 7 or 8 year old boy, I could sense his strong spiritual and serious nature. Eric Dolphy was of a different nature and was my first male adult friend (I was a bit younger when he would come over though). I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary and having it help me in dealing with the current events of the day as well. Thanks again!

  • That was an extraordinary read! Thank you!

  • A superb, personal post which to which I can relate to on multiple levels. The anxiety, the fears but the absolute knowledge that music can bring you salvation. Looking forward to seeing the movie. For me, living in a relatively progressive nation like Sweden, it’s impossible to understand how a goon like Trump can become the President of the United States of America, and thus the most powerful leader in the world. It’s a joke, and it’s sad. Let’s hope for a calm and collected next few years. Thanks for this post Al. Keep faith.

  • Regarding the documentary, it looks like our next chance to see it won’t be until 2017, correct?

  • Wow—Thank you so much for so openly and freely sharing your deepest emotions. Your essay was so moving, and your courage in being so open about your personal pain, as half of our nation goes through a very similar process of shock, dread, disbelief, anxiety and horror, was beautiful and inspiring. I totally resonated to your reaction to the election results, also imaging the Apocolypse, with the Mad Hatter at the wheel with some of the sickest and most corrupt cronies, including a neo Nazi (!) as chief of staff—which still makes me shudder—However, I too found solace on November 9th and the days after in listening to Coltrane, first going through A Love Supreme from start to finish, followed by the almost 28 minute version of One Down, One Up from Live at the Half Note. It was not until a few hours later, I realized the hidden message in my choice of music to listen to, in an effort to soothe my terror and rage. When reflecting on the title “One Down, One Up” I was reminded of the cyclical nature of the struggle of light vs. dark, the higher aspects of our humanity vs. “the beast.” Yes, perhaps we are One Down—for now—but I was given hope that One Down will be replaced by One Up; darkness will not last forever.

    I also deeply resonated to your describing the effect Coltrane has had on your life. Listening to Coltrane has gotten me through the most difficult times, starting as a 15 year old, and continuing for over the next 50 years—when nothing around me seemed to make any sense, listening to Trane restored my strength to keep going—and provided me with all the sense that I needed; sometimes it was the only thing that made any sense. I did not know the story about Nagasaki. But your description of his wanting to be fully present with all that went on there perhaps sheds further light on why, for me, even just hearing one note from John’s horn is transporting, and makes me feel like I am not alone.

  • Al, you and I will never agree politically, but we do share the bond of “Jazz”. I discovered the genre while in HS, as I cruised the FM dial for something different. I happened upon WBGO as they were in the middle of a Miles Davis celebration. Like a pebble dropped into a still pool, my interest expanded outward in concentric ripples that continue to this day.

    Your initiation into Jazz (and Coltrane) resonated with me, as my introduction to him was also through My Favorite Things. I discovered the tune and album late in HS, and it followed me into college. I spent much time flat on my back, with headphones clamped to my ears, MFT on the tt, with the volume turned up. From the fast but metronomic waltz tempo, to the transition into ‘Trane’s solo that goes off in all directions while remaining anchored to the theme, it was a great way to tune out, and then into ones own thoughts.

    I share this as a way of pointing out that there is common ground even with those we vehemently disagree with. Like everyone, I was astonished at the outcome of the election. I did not vote for Trump (or Hillary), but I understood many of the sentiments on both sides. I consider myself a conservative, and I can say to my liberal friends that they now understand how we felt in 2008. BUT, the sky did not fall and the country did not end. There were changes (good or bad depending on perspective) but here we are today, debating the meaning of the outcome. The real winner is the US. Let us unite to preserve our country so we may continue to have these debates, and express our national opinion every 4 years. I think the American Experiment has a lot more life left in it.

    And I will listen to “One Up, One Down” this evening !

  • This is Al. To all of my regular readers. Have no fear, I will be back to my regular postings on Monday. The Return of Jazz Collector, if you will. Before then, I will post one more long comment on this article, expressing thanks for your comments, updating you all on how I am doing (well), and offering a little guidance from my experience the past few weeks. But I can’t do that today because I have to write two white papers for a client so I can pay the bills.

  • Al, I am not a jazz lover, but this incredible review and personal narrative moved me to tears. I am choked up as I write because of the window about you that re-opened and because of my own malaise, depression, melancholy, etc. about the election. So glad that in addition to family, you have this other great love! Hugs to all. Barbara

  • I can picture you in the library listening to all of that great music again and again. That’s how I was in high school, only I would look at books and magazines about dancing. The arts have a healing power. Thank you for sharing your experience so openly. It’s a very moving story, and it helps to remind me we aren’t alone!

  • wow,what a person you are,your sensitive caring soul and love for Coltrane has helped me restore faith in humanity at a time in America heartwhen our great nation is terribly divided,I was just really tripped out by your heart and want to point that out.I will pray for you and I hope you will pray for us too.As far as Coltrane goes I just fell in love with him and his spirit this past Labour Day when I heard A Love Supreme for the first time! and its been amazing since,thank you for your review,cant wait for the movie to be available for us.Peace to you and your loved ones 🙂

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