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John Coltrane: His Life and Music

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  293 ratings  ·  21 reviews
John Coltrane was a key figure in jazz, a pioneer in world music, and an intensely emotional force whose following continues to grow. This new biography, the first by a professional jazz scholar and performer, presents a huge amount of never-before-published material, including interviews with Coltrane, photos, genealogical documents, and innovative musical analysis that o
Paperback, 448 pages
Published January 28th 2000 by University of Michigan Press (first published 1998)
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First Book Of Jazz by Langston HughesJazz by Gary GiddinsJohn Coltrane by Lewis PorterThe Story of Jazz by Marshall W. StearnsBut Beautiful by Geoff Dyer
3rd out of 32 books — 9 voters
John Lennon by Philip NormanClapton by Eric ClaptonLife by Keith RichardsThe Beatles Anthology by The BeatlesMercury by Lesley-Ann Jones
Music Biographies
65th out of 260 books — 98 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 699)
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Porter's forte is music criticism; not writing a narrative tale of who this grand jazz giant was in real life. I believe the subtitle is a bit misleading as it should be: "His Music and His Life".

While I'm not an expert on jazz sheet music, he thoroughly highlights his most important works; includes manuscript images of some major/minor works; and explains the context of the origin and evolution of his music.

As far as knowing "Trane" the persona, I was dissatisfied with the way his story was pre
Lukasz Pruski
Dr. Lewis Porter's "John Coltrane. His Life and Music" is an extraordinarily well-researched book, with meticulous references (571 reference notes spanning 37 pages), and quite detailed chronology of performances and recorded interviews (38 pages). The author is a noted musicologist, an author of several books on jazz greats and jazz history, a professor of music at Rutgers, and an accomplished pianist. The book sets a very high standard for future jazz biographies.

I first heard John Coltrane's
Jonathan Casey
Porter makes the unnecessarily bold claim that his is the definitive work on Coltrane, which is a problem since he takes a lot of material from the interviews in "Coltrane on Coltrane," does not provide a comprehensive biography, and doesn't get too deep into recording sessions or the specific ways his various LPs were put together. He does provide musical analysis which is important, and helped me to understand the "Giant Steps" changes, for example, but beyond that gets into technical music th ...more
E' sempre difficile parlare di Coltrane, ma vale per qualunque maitre a penser della musica popolare moderna del secolo trascorso, senza scivolare nella buccia di banana dell'aggettivazione coatta, nell'inchino e nella riverenza acritica, nella banalità ad ogni costo, ancor più nei testi destinati a una fruzione non specialistica: sarà perchè volenti o nolenti siamo cresciuti crociani, o nel caso dei jazzofili italiani polilliani - quanto bene e quanto male ha fatto il salomonico avvocato milane ...more
I read this after Ben Ratliff's 'Coltrane' which is not a bio but a sort of overview of Coltrane's musical evolution and then his legacy. Both books work well together, but I should have read the Porter bio first.

Porter is meticulous researcher and documenter and there are quite a number of cool and interesting photos and documents reproduced in the book. There is a ton of info in the book and quite a bit of new and newly corrected info. There is a lot of musical analysis throughout, from the ea
Rob the Obscure
If you are interested in Coltrane, and especially if you are a musician, this book is not to be missed. The work goes deeply into Coltrane's life, legacy, and spirituality, and does a decent job of revealing the source of his music and psychological make up in his unending and ultimately unresolved spiritual search. While doing this, the author also provides numerous examples of transcriptions of Coltrane's music so that the musician-reader can understand the application of theory and harmony to ...more
Robert Posey
Scholarly but readable is best way I can describe this biography. Good bonus material in appendices & notes. I agree that his putting down of other books on Coltrane is silly, but that's about my only quibble.
Winter  Sophia Rose
Never Mind The Others, This Is It!
Nov 08, 2007 Matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: coltrane fans
Shelves: music
This book by Lewis Porter is exceedingly in depth, and meticulously researched. Unfortunately, it's also some very dry reading, in my opinion. With that said, I did learn a few things I didn't know, such as the experimentation with LSD that Coltrane did later in life. Recommended for musicians, or hard core Coltrane fans. Other people may want to start elsewhere.
Probably the best bio on Coltrane written. Traces his roots back to slavery days. Comments are all referenced. Explores controversial issues such as was it drugs that killed Coltrane. In addition to being a biography, a thorough explanation of the musical theory of his compositions is included. If you read one book on Coltrane, this should be it.
Oct 24, 2008 ajp3 rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: trane fans
Recommended to ajp3 by: pc
I borrowed this from a saxophone playing friend of mine. it's a really great book with a lot love and time put into it, definitely a must read for music lovers. the analysis of a love supreme is interesting, and the transcription of one of his last duets w/Rasheed Ali was fun to try to play also.
I enjoyed reading this one quite a bit. It's a really nice blend of scholarly research and musical analysis. As a musician, I found the musical analysis interesting and clearly written. I would consider this book a "must read" for any fan of Coltrane, or any fan of jazz.
Sep 02, 2008 Kelton rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Musicians
Recommended to Kelton by: A friend
A very academically targeted biography. Excellent and thorough sources. Most important to me however was the authors in depth analysis of Coltrane's harmonically derived and spiritually derived musics and how those aspects interact to create the masterpieces we have today.
Sep 14, 2007 Ethan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: musicians
Don't waste your time on other Coltrane biographies. This is the only one with any serious rigor, fact-checking and clarity. It's full of transcriptions, with several entire solos presented and discussed thoroughly. Every musician should read it.
This book gets five stars simply because John Coltrane was a saint. This is a very even-handed overview of his life and musical developments, with several moments of strong insight into Coltrane's character.
Jean-denis Crouhy
Une étude sérieuse sur la vie de Coltrane et sa musique (avec des partitions en prime !)

Une mine d'or pour les fans de Coltrane !!En anglais uniquement pour l'instant...
James Chafin
the best book about Coltrane. i hate his music but the book that best explains why it's very special.
This definitive biography combines genealogical research with musicological analysis.
A very technical book and a bit dry. If you're into music theory then read this book.
Franco Vite
Ti piace il jazz? Ami John Coltrane?
Ecco, questa è LA biografia di Trane.
Jake Adam
Amazing and amazingly detailed.
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