John Coltrane

Playing Changes
June 12, 2010

“Here’s how I play,” John Coltrane remarked in an interview in 1961. “I start from one point and go as far as possible. But, unfortunately, I never lose my way.” It was not long before Coltrane escaped the confinement of what he already knew, and made exploration itself into his highest value; but it must also be said that an ethic of unending exploration, a life of serial certitudes, may also be shallow and a mark of mere restlessness. There are many ways to be lost. (Coltrane at the end of his questing life certainly sounds lost to me.

The Madness of Bud Powell
April 02, 2010

Every artist has a story, or so we in the audience for art like to believe. In music, certainly—particularly in styles of music rich in abstraction, such as the avant-garde and jazz­—it’s easier for us to make something of challenging work if we can conceive of the composer or performer in easy-to-grasp narrative terms. If we imagine John Coltrane as a sojourning mystic, we can process his difficult late work as mystical sojourning.