Early in the new documentary Chasing Trane, Benny Golson recalls his friendship with John Coltrane, complaining that the iconic saxophonist made him do all the talking. “He was quiet,” Golson says. “He never talked—until he put that saxophone in his mouth.”
Director John Scheinfeld, never a diehard jazz fan before making Chasing Trane, discovered Coltrane’s penchant for silence the hard way. Searching for footage to help tell Trane’s story, Scheinfeld realized that TV interviews were non-existent and radio interviews were scarce and of subpar sound quality. He solved the problem in two ways: one, by having Oscar-winner Denzel Washington read Trane’s own words; and two, by acknowledging what Golson and countless other jazz fans have learned over the last half-century: that Coltrane could speak volumes through his saxophone.