Movie Review: 'Chasing Trane'

Documentary about jazz great John Coltrane brings musical icon to life


He was "an artistic genius and a spiritual giant," but the most glorious thing about jazz artist John Coltrane was that he was here in the world.

Writer-director John Scheinfeld's new film, "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary," brings this consummate master to life through interviews with his associates, writers and his own words as spoken by actor Denzel Washington.

Jazz remains a difficult thing to describe, especially after decades in which the general public has had time to set in its collective consciousness a notion that it's either strange and discordant or that stuff you kinda liked in "La La Land" or -- shudder -- droned on by Kenny G. One of the best ways to think about jazz is by likening it to its visual cousin: abstract art. It has color and form and an intellectual spark combined with a sophisticated gut level punch, but it isn't "smooth" in any way.

There was a time in the post-World War II era when Coltrane was a contemporary of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, a man who honed his skills listening to records by Count Basie and Lester Young and who, at age 13, picked up the saxophone and tried to imitate the sounds of his idols, Charlie Parker and Johnny Hodges. This was a golden period for solid jazz. But, it was also a time when heroin use danced along with the beat.

In 1957, Coltrane felt revived after quitting drugs cold turkey. "His energy level went up a notch," one of the interviewees states.

In July of that year, he joined Monk and soon his singular identity emerged. He was not only a great saxophonist, but now was a major composer.

In the film's press materials, it is stated that "Coltrane's dramatic life story was cinematic in its scope -- from his early musical life playing alongside giants Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Vinson and Jimmy Heath, to breakout performances with the Miles Davis Quintet on their classic recordings 'Round About Midnight' and 'Kind of Blue,' to the historic partnership with Thelonious Monk and then finally to his astonishing solo career that gave the world such musical diamonds as 'Giant Steps,' 'My Favorite Things,' 'Impressions,' 'Live at Birdland' and 1965's seminal 'A Love Supreme.'"

This film is not just a tribute to one of the world's greatest creative visionaries, but an essential document of a cultural milestone. Coltrane was part of a movement that literally changed the world and nothing in music could be heard the same afterward. Scheinfeld doesn't grovel at the master's feet, but he objectively documents what needs to be known about the man, his music, his times and the world in which he lived.

'Trane died from liver cancer in 1967 at the age of 40.

The film was produced with the full participation of the Coltrane family and the support of the record labels that collectively own the Coltrane catalog. Among those interviewed in the film are Carlos Santana, Wynton Marsalis, Sonny Rollins, Michelle Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and John Densmore.

"Chasing Trane" is not rated.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (May 21) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (May 22-24).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials and an opening day screening.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Director Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne.

When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy — whether he likes it or not.

Film co-stars Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Craig McGinlay.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit


MPAA rating: R for crude sexual content, brief nudity and language throughout Mitchell Storyteller 7

There’s a great scene in “Snatched,” a new comedy, that a lot of moms will probably cheer. It has to do with a daughter’s apparently long-held assumption that her once-vivacious mother has somehow wasted her life. Goldie Hawn, the mom, reacts by reminding her wacky adult child, Amy Schumer, that fulfillment isn’t such an easy train to jump onto. Unfortunately, the movie is supposed to be a comedy and the laughs tend to be few and far between.

The raucous movie from “Warm Bodies” director Jonathan Levine concerns self-centered Emily Middleton (Schumer) and the crossroads she finds herself in when she loses her boyfriend and job on the same day she was planning to embark on an exotic vacation. With the nonrefundable trip hanging over her, Emily decides to talk her overly cautious mom, Linda (Hawn), into going with her — to Ecuador. Once there, Emily tries to infect her mom with her own sense of throw-caution-to-the-wind sense of adventure but, of course, they find themselves lured into a dangerous situation fraught with loads of offensive stereotypes and off-color jokes.

Co-stars include Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack and Ike Barinholtz.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit


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