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John Coltrane: His Life and Music

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  388 Ratings  ·  27 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 11th 2000 by University of Michigan Press (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Jonny Parshall
As someone musically inclined, I was glad to see Mr Porter's use of sheet music and notations to illustrate Coltrane's styles and how they evolved over time. Too many biographers of musicians leave out this essential ingredient. This function engaged my understanding of Coltrane better than without.

On a humorous note, my failing eyes constantly mistook "tenorist" for "terrorist." My impression of Mr Coltrane had never suffered such blows, albeit temporarily. It is better we remember him as a mas
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
Lukasz Pruski
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
David Rullo
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, this book fell a bit flat for my taste. The author's writing style isn't necessarily great, and it certainly isn't the definitive book on Coltrane.

So, where does the biography fail? Porter doesn't do a great job with the biography. Coltrane's early years are covered well and the epilogue does a good job of presenting the legacy; the rest of his life is written with a style I would call fly over writing. Why did Coltrane choose the musicians he did and who filtered in and out of th
Oct 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Rob the Obscure
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Finocchiaro
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Besides my new appreciation for Art Pepper, I have always loved the saxophone: Bird, Bean, Prez, Branford, even Clemens and Clinton (LOL) but seriously my favorite sax player of all time has been and still is Trane. Since I was on this kick already, I grabbed a Coltrane biography, (John Coltrane, His Life and Music by Lewis Porter) and really enjoyed it. I find it fascinating that both he and Miles were both able to go cold turkey and quite smack BY THEMSELVES after years of abuse in each case. ...more
Travis Haight
Jan 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This book took me a lot longer to read than I normally do, ones of this size. It's not that it wasn't was very much so, and about one of my absolute favorite musicians of all time. The only problem is that it is not only extremely dry, but is chock full of major and minor musical references, technical music things. As someone who is not a musician, but is a music fanatic who appreciates when things are explained, but not being dumbed down, it is a little bit problematic. All in ...more
Jonathan Casey
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
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
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 08, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Dalton Blue
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful book. I admittedly had to gloss over the more musically theoretical passages but the rest was great. Porter's last sentence works as a tearjerking epitaph for Coltrane. "There will never [again] be three notes quite like them"
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
May 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Robert Posey
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 28, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: cant-get-through
I started this a long time ago, but it was a hard one to get through because it was very detailed on every event that happened in coltranes life, i couldn't get through it
James Chafin
the best book about Coltrane. i hate his music but the book that best explains why it's very special.
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
A very technical book and a bit dry. If you're into music theory then read this book.
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This definitive biography combines genealogical research with musicological analysis.
Jean-denis Crouhy
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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...
Franco Vite
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: storia, jazz
Ti piace il jazz? Ami John Coltrane?
Ecco, questa è LA biografia di Trane.
Winter Sophia Rose
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Never Mind The Others, This Is It!
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Aug 26, 2011
Brian Avant
rated it it was amazing
Jul 31, 2015
Ken Kase
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Jan 11, 2017
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May 28, 2017
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“A Love Supreme' is Coltrane's best-known and best-selling album.” 1 likes
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