Release Date: April 14
Director: John Scheinfeld
Perhaps due to his relative normalcy, perhaps to his very early death (only 40 years old), John Coltrane’s personality never really seeped into the public consciousness the way that, say, his contemporaries Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie’s did. That makes this authorized documentary portrait from director John Scheinfeld that much more valuable – you feel not only closer to the man (whose own words are brought to life by Denzel Washington’s voice) but to his art. With the help of recordings, performance footage, and interviews with family and experts (some you’d expect, like Wynton Marsalis and Ben Ratliff, and some you might not, like Cornell West and Bill Clinton), Scheinfeld patiently works through Coltrane’s process and evolution. He didn’t start out great (as the experts carefully note about his first recordings, and they’re not wrong); he got great by working hard, and collaborating with people who could make him better. In retracing those steps, Scheinfeld’s film does the hardest thing for a bio-doc to do: it gets what’s great about the artist, and moves you in the same ways their art does. Structurally inventive and masterfully edited (with cutting that tunes in to the rhythms of the original music), while offering up plenty of the greatest gift: rare footage of Coltrane playing, so powerful, so passionate, so transcendent.