I love John Coltrane, he is my favourite artist, and is without doubt a musical genius. As such, having just released the new documentary “Chasing Trane” I was super excited about watching it. See trailer below:
It is an excellent documentary that I highly recommend, and just reinforces how much I think about this extraordinary man.
I did learn a number of new things about Coltrane’s compositions that I did not previously know. One of which being the story of the classic composition “Alabama” that features off the album “Live at Birdland”, which he did with his quartet: McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. Here are the links to the two respective wiki pages:
Alabama was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Sep 15th, 1963, an attack by the KKK in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four African-American girls. It was a tragic event that left a huge scar on our humanity.
Now, in Coltrane’s composition the melody was largely derived out of the rhythm of the Martin Luther King eulogy in response to the bombing (see video below):
If you overlay the sound of the eulogy to the live recording of Alabama (as in the documentary “Chasing Trane”) you can hear the merging of each respective haunting sound. You can quite clearly hear the pain and anger of the Black-American struggle and Coltrane’s reflection of that but even more so he is digging deep into the history of black oppression. Moreover, he also has dapples of optimism that also reflect on the progress that was being made at the time on the matter. This is a chilling and haunting piece and based in its symbolism to the movement of racial equality in the United States it is one for the history books.