This is Khan’s follow up to his book on Miles’ A Kind of Blue. Significantly thicker than its predecessor, it is in fact a pretty full biography of Trane but chronologically warped to focus most of its energy on the three years from 1961’s My Favourite Things to 1964’s recording of A Love Supreme.
Reading anything about Trane is like seeing a movie in which you know your favourite character is going to die tragically and yet, every time you see the film you feel for a moment or two, however ridiculous you know this to be, that maybe this time he/she will escape their fate. The book is a superb telling of an incredible story. Coltrane was perhaps the most driven of all the great jazz musicians on his art. No one practiced more, no one questioned more, no one researched more and no one asked more of himself or his audiences than Trane.
It is quite humbling to compare ones efforts in any field with this latter day saint. Dead at 40, he would record no fewer than 35 records as leader in the last 10 years of his life. Even when he was widely acknowledged to be the don, his humility was such that he would hang out with younger, relatively unknown free jazz musicians and ask what they thought about things. He would create what, for many jazz lovers, was the definitive quartet and sound of jazz and then ‘throw it away’ at the height of its popularity for a group of upstarts no one had ever heard of to play without any of the apparent melody and harmony that had anchored him in the jazz tradition.
Listening again to his ‘out there’ recordings, there is actually a great deal of beauty in them but the extraction process is time consuming. Returning to that classic quartet featuring McCoy Tyner, time and time again characters in Khan’s book refer to the album before A Love Supreme to be their favourite of all his albums. Crescent is definitely an album worth checking out.
Published in the UK by Granta
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