Review: ‘Chasing Trane’ a worthy tribute to Coltrane

John Coltrane documentary pulls in voices ranging from Bill Clinton to Carlos Santana

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Chasing Trane” is an enlightening documentary about the life and career of jazz great John Coltrane, told with an eloquence that befits his immense legacy.

Bill Clinton is among the voices in director John Scheinfeld’s doc, which also includes contributions from Cornel West, Carlos Santana, Wynton Marsalis and a handful of jazz musicians who knew and worked with Coltrane. Denzel Washington voices passages of the film as Coltrane himself.

Scheinfeld is clearly a fan, and “Chasing Trane” is a celebration of Coltrane’s life, with its ups and downs. It traces his rise through the Jim Crow South through his creative blossoming in Philadelphia through his time playing with Miles Davis, where he was a key player on “Kind of Blue.”

“Chasing Trane” also makes a side trip to Japan to visit with fans there, who speak of the importance of Trane’s 1966 visit to Tokyo.

The voices in the film occasionally lapse into the kind of hippy-dippy jazz speak that could make casual viewers or those who don’t “get” jazz roll their eyes; Santana at one point remarks that when he played, Coltrane “rearranged molecular structure.” That’s a lot to take on, and it’s difficult to pinpoint what that even means.

But like Coltrane’s music, the sheer brilliance of his musicianship cuts through the clutter.

Simplifying himself, at one point Santana remarks, “He played life.” So does “Chasing Trane.”


(313) 222-2284


‘Chasing Trane’


Not rated: Language

Running time: 99 minutes