This highly enjoyable graphic novel – its four parts mirroring the sections of John Coltrane’s peerless Love Supreme set – jump-cuts across the great saxophonist’s short life in a series of vignettes ranging from the recording sessions at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studios to the creation of the tumultuous Ascension album in 1966. The approach of Parisi, himself a musician, is loose, improvisational and, while far from providing a comprehensive history, suits the subject.
Along the way, we learn that Coltrane was a shy and serious-minded individual, who found salvation in music and its potential for spiritual redemption, but fell victim to the narcotics haze that blighted much of the 50s US jazz scene. Coltrane’s pivotal romance with his future wife, pianist/harpist Alice McLeod (to whom the book is dedicated), is poignantly rendered, while his relationship with the Black Power movement is touched upon.
Coltrane is a decidedly impressionistic account of the years of a great artist, though its chaotic chronology is only ever mildly frustrating. A wholly enjoyable read, this graphic novel represents both an affectionate portrayal and a fitting tribute.