In his short life, John Coltrane continually pushed the boundaries of music. From swing to bebop to hard bop to free jazz, Coltrane was a restless seeker of new sounds. Inspired by the hypnotic, trance-inducing traditional music of North Africa and Asia, Coltrane created a new kind of music that fused jazz and Eastern spirituality.
The World According to John Coltrane tells the story of Coltrane’s quest, from his childhood in a deeply religious household in North Carolina to his early days playing saxophone in the Navy, to his apprenticeship with Miles Davis in the 1950s and his emergence as a bandleader and innovator in the 1960s. Most of the one-hour film is devoted to Coltrane’s later period, when he came into his own. The film is not a biography, in the traditional sense. There is very little about Coltrane’s personal life — his marriages, children, drug problems and declining health. Director Robert Palmer focuses instead on Coltrane’s journey as a musician.
The World According to John Coltrane was made in 1990, and includes interviews with Coltrane’s second wife, pianist Alice Coltrane, and a number of other musicians who knew Coltrane and played with him, including saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Rashied Ali and Pianist Tommy Flanagan. It provides some excellent insights into one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians.