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Coltrane on Coltrane by Edited by Chris DeVito

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We may think we can learn everything we need to know about John Coltrane through his music, but Coltrane on Coltrane teaches us more. Edited by Chris DeVito, one of the authors of 2007’s The John Coltrane Reference, the book collects every known interview Coltrane gave, along with selected interview-based liner notes and articles and some of Coltrane’s own writings. The portrait that emerges is one of an acutely self-aware, intelligent, gracious man, given to in-depth, candid, often critical analyses of both his art and personal life.

Today music journalism is ubiquitous, and most artists understand and accept that speaking with curious journalists-as well as those on assignment who might know or care nothing about them-comes with the job. In Coltrane’s day, music in general was rarely given generous coverage outside of very specialized publications, and jazz even less so. Artists, even of Coltrane’s stature, were not called upon to sit with writers and answer questions all that frequently. That DeVito was able to excavate this trove of material-many of the interviews took place and were published outside of the United States-is mighty impressive. That Coltrane treated his inquisitors (most of whom were devoted, knowledgeable fans) with dignity, and used the interview process as an opportunity to evaluate himself, was a gift to those he spoke with. His openness makes Coltrane on Coltrane an essential tool in understanding what drove the music.

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