Tuesday, March 29, 2022


Judith Jamison

Alvin Ailey with his mother

Alvin Ailey, 1965

Alvin Ailey, 1986

Director Jamila Wignot















AILEY – made for TV                         B+                                                                                     USA  (94 mi)  2021  d: Jamila Wignot

Sometimes your name becomes bigger than yourself.  Do you really know who that is?           —Carmen de Lavallade

Made for the American Masters TV series, long overdue, as the subject is an American treasure, Alvin Ailey, dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Troupe, one of the world’s most renowned modern dance companies, which has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents.  Presenting works that speak to the black American experience, blending important works of the past with newly commissioned works, more than 235 works by over 90 choreographers have been part of the company’s repertory.  Much of it told in his own words, featuring rarely seen archival footage along with interviews of those who knew and worked with him, Wignot’s documentary is a revealing exposé on the life of a black artist in America seeking to define himself when there was literally no outlet for his creativity, yet he burst on the scene anyway, founding his own dance company in 1958.   The film opens with a brief introductory segment in 1988 with Cicely Tyson presenting Ailey with a Kennedy Center Honor for a lifetime contribution to American culture, with a cut to President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy applauding cheerfully, an ironic twist to the festivities, as Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis, waiting four years after the crisis began before publicly acknowledging AIDS, well after nearly 90,000 thousand had already died.  Coming just a year prior to his death, dying at age 58 from complications from AIDS, the film cuts to the current Upper West Side Manhattan headquarters of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Troupe in New York, which includes a massive window-lined rehearsal hall substantially larger than any stage, as choreographer Rennie Harris, flanked by company associate Masazumi Chaya, introduces Artistic Director Robert Battle as they begin rehearsals on a larger work entitled Lazarus delving into aspects of the life of Alvin Ailey, like a memory play, peeling back the layers of his life, honoring the 60th anniversary of the company he founded.  The true star of the show, however, is uncredited rehearsal director Nina Flagg, who leads them in “irk and jerk” hip-hop movements, with bodies popping in motion, adding an electric choreographed synchronicity, where this kick-starts the film into gear, Ailey dancers perform an excerpt from 'Lazarus,' together while apart YouTube (2:08).  It’s a blistering tribute to the beauty of dance movement, as Ailey sought to convey truth through movement, becoming a study of the man and his enduring vision.  Taking us back to his childhood during the Depression, mixing in archival footage with audio interviews of Ailey, rarely ever heard speaking about himself, let alone in such an unguarded fashion, as he grew up in rural Texas, never knowing his father, raised by his mother, “I remember the sunsets.  I remember people moving in the twilight,” recalling being carried on her hip as she moved from place to place looking for work, picking cotton, cleaning white folks homes, even witnessing her being raped by a white man when he was just 5-years old.  He also recalls sneaking out at night to visit the juke joints, marveling in the freedom of expression and the pleasure of watching others dance, but he also remembers experiences with a best friend, saved from nearly drowning, with his friend covering his body, lying on top of one another, offering a titillating sensation.  At age 12, his mother moved to Los Angeles, where he had to hide his interest in dance, which for boys was viewed as being a sissy, with a coach asking him to try out for the football team, but he had no interest in knocking people down.  Instead, at 14 he watched a performance of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo that literally changed his life, as he wanted to see more of that.  What particularly inspired him was watching a performance of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, viewing it as a revelation, as it reflected the black experience, taking dance to new heights, finding himself taking classes with Lester Horton, one of the first racially integrated dance schools in America, sitting way up in a corner, never doing anything until Horton finally moved him onstage to see what he could do, eventually joining his dance company in the early 50’s alongside his high school friend Carmen de Lavallade, taking over as the artistic director of the dance troupe when Horton died suddenly.            

Early footage of Ailey dancing is seen, young and muscular, partnering with Carmen de Lavallade, as he began to choreograph his own works.  In the 1950’s and 60’s, Ailey danced in shows starring Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne (no mention is made of his performing act with Maya Angelou), while performing in four Broadway shows, including House Of Flowers, gaining some notoriety, but once the run was over, he quickly lost all his contacts, where he was simply left all on his own, as there was no future for a black dancer and choreographer, who also happened to be gay, so he began to question himself, where much of this film revolves around those existential questions, for which he had no answers at the time, as there was no model to draw inspiration from.  Instead he had to look inward, as he was just 27-years old when he formed his own dance company with just 7 dancers, discovering his unique voice as a creative artist, recalling ancestral “blood memories” when he choreographed Blues Suite, just his 6th ballet, set in a sporting house, or brothel during the Depression, where men and women who frequent the place flirt, drink, and dance all night to the music of the blues, while morning brings the sound of a train and church bells.  Ailey put real people onstage, characters pulled out of his rural Texas childhood, who were largely underrepresented in the American theater.  Ailey, for instance, preceded playwright August Wilson in the stage theater by more than a decade, with both uniquely chronicling the black experience of 20th century America.  Ailey took his company on the road, all stuffed into one station wagon, including costumes, lighting, and stage props, while staying in some flimsy motels along the way, as it was during the Jim Crow era when blacks were still designated to segregated areas.  Bill Hammond, the white stage manager, sent pictures of the entire ensemble to the motels ahead of time so they would not be surprised when they arrived, as being turned away at the door would have a devastating impact on the dignity and morale of the group.  In 1960, Ailey released his signature work, Revelations, which even today remains a staple of their repertoire, performed continuously around the globe, a celebration transcending faith and nationality, probably seen by more people around the world than any other modern dance, taking audiences back to church spirituals, gospel songs, and the holy blues, exploring the deepest grief and the most jubilant hallelujahs, expressing the heart and soul of the black church, where houses of worship provided a safe sanctuary since the days of slavery, offering salvation and hope, becoming part of the inner consciousness and collective identity of black people in America, Revelations - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater YouTube (33:44).  For Ailey, he wanted his dance troupe to offer a similar safe space, where his dancers could act as diplomats gracefully guiding audiences along a spiritual and historical journey.  In 1962, President Kennedy sent the Ailey company to tour the Far East, Southeast Asia, and Australia as part of a good will ambassador tour, the first black company asked to participate, Ailey Dancers in the Streets of Paris YouTube (1:52).  The film also includes many performances by the phenomenal Judith Jamison, an Ailey dancer who joined the company in 1965, becoming the star for fifteen years before succeeding Ailey as the Artistic Director after his death in 1989, a role she assumed for the next 21 years, succeeded by Robert Battle in 2011.  When describing Revelations, Jamison revealed, “What took me away was the prowess and the technique and the fluidity and the excellence.  That was the miracle.”  Jamison and Lavallade appear as interview subjects in the film, along with former dancers and company associates George Faison, Mary Barnett, Sylvia Waters, Sarita Allen, Masazumi Chaya, and choreographer Bill T. Jones, whose modernist approach was brought in to keep abreast with the times.  While all shared experiences, perhaps only Jones, with his unapologetic candor, attempted to answer the lingering question of just who Alvin Ailey was as a man and fellow artist, suggesting he wanted to transcend the restrictive label of being a black artist, as artists may create beautiful things, but they also have to give representation to the turbulence of the times as well as their own troubled inner spirits.  “What about the troubled artist, who is often turned in and barbed?”  Part of the transparency of dance is that the choreographer has to reveal so much of himself onstage, suggesting “This was a very vulnerable thing to witness.  But I saw him really trying to go in search of what I believe had probably made him a choreographer.  He wanted a poetry.”

While very few dance movies hold up over time, cinema instead features dance as an integral part of a larger feature, like Bob Fosse’s CABARET (1972) or All That Jazz (1979), the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, and a whole host of MGM musicals, yet what stands out for superlatives are the 17-minute long Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dance sequence from Vincente Minnelli’s AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951), “An American in Paris Ballet” Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Ensemble “An American in Paris” (1951) YouTube (8:31), a magical scene in film history taking viewers on a tour of French art history, or the extended Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale ballet in Powell and Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948), The Ballet - The Red Shoes (1948) YouTube (20:56), one of the most visually astounding 20-minute sequences ever made, a celebration of artistic obsession and a cautionary tale, with suggestions that you may have to die for your art.  As for uniquely original films entirely based upon dancing, Wim Wenders’ Pina in 3D (2011) comes to mind, though Frederick Wiseman’s exquisitely beautiful BALLET (1995) may be the most captivating, a near three-hour tour de force documentary made exclusively from behind-the scenes rehearsal footage mixed with largely unedited onstage performances.  What makes this film so compelling is the way Wignot creates an intensely personalized dialogue between the present and the past, where the 60th anniversary choreography footage of Lazarus contrasts with the entirety of Ailey’s work, literally resurrecting his entire career, where the work becomes an intricately connected memory piece.  His dances were revolutionary social statements expressed with a theatrical flourish, creating an extroverted style of dancers with strong personalities and identifiable skills, as powerful in his own time as ours today.  Ailey makes black life indispensable to the American story, deserving a central place on the world stage as quintessential American art, created by a working class, gay black man who rose to prominence in a society that systematically strove to exclude him, transforming the world of dance for those on the margins.  Reveling with a multiracial sense of pride, audiences around the world responded to his themes of oppression, personal struggle, and transcendence.  In 1971, almost in secret, he choreographed a new piece for Judith Jamison entitled Cry as a surprise birthday present to his mother who was celebrating her birthday in New York, featuring a female dancer clad in a white leotard and a long ruffled skirt, Alvin Ailey and the AMAZING Donna Wood in CRY 1982 YouTube (10:31), taking the audience on a journey of bitter sorrow, brutal hardship, and ecstatic joy, dedicated to “all black women everywhere – especially our mothers.”  Yet perhaps harder to find is the man behind the curtain, a largely closeted figure spending a great deal of his career isolated and alone, a gay man closely watched by the FBI, referring to Ailey’s homosexuality as “lewd and criminal tendencies,” threatening his company with bankruptcy if he showed any signs of effeminate or homosexual behavior while on tour, leading a solitary life, even at the height of his success, suggesting there was an elusive man inside the man that few ever knew, rarely confiding his personal pressures even within his inner circle.  A melancholic tone pervades throughout the film, as he seems to have lost himself in his workaholism, fame, and success, where questions remain how a black man made it in a predominately white world, evoking other questions that are painfully urgent and personal, often taking him to a dark place.  It hit him hard losing one of his premiere dancers and closest friends, Joyce Tisler, from an untimely death in her 40’s, or the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of a lover, Abdullah, brought to New York after having met in Paris.  He retreated into that mental space fraught with personal anguish and pain, suffering a mental breakdown requiring hospitalization, before dying all too young from AIDS during the New York AIDS scare of the 80’s, something he tried to hide, a time when people’s appearances were changing, getting thinner and seemingly dying everywhere, with Ailey having to choose a suitable successor to run his treasured dance company.  Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones insightfully offers his own assessment, “Men are men on Ailey’s stage and women are women on Ailey’s stage, and they are exemplary, and they are the survivors of racism and slavery, and they are beautiful and they are strong, and they will live forever and leap higher and higher.  And you’re telling me that they have sex?  And they have sex that could kill them?  You’re telling me Mr. Ailey himself?  Oh, that’s too much.  That’s too much.  We have to edit that out of the history.  And he participated in the editing of it.  He was alone.  What community of gay people was he with that could say, ‘Alvin, this is happening to us’?”  Yet it’s that rhythmically intricate footwork from Lazarus that leaves us with a spiritual force that’s uplifting, accentuating dancing with an irresistible beat, featuring the glorious music of Nina Simone, coming from a choreography based on a Philadelphia dance stepping style called GQ.  More than anything, however, Ailey understood dance as a tool for personal transcendence that epitomized an idealized freedom and liberation through movement, a catharsis for the bleak realities of the human experience, offering dreamlike visions evoking the full range of human emotions, like carefully preserved time capsules for the future.  

Friday, March 25, 2022

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Coltrane with Miles


Miles, Cannonball Adderley, and Coltrane

Coltrane House in Philadelphia

Dix Hills home, Long Island

John Coltrane with Alice

Coltrane with McCoy Tyner

CHASING TRANE:  THE JOHN COLTRANE DOCUMENTARY         B+                               USA  (99 mi)  2016  d: John Scheinfeld                              

An essential portrait in the life of a jazz giant and a companion piece to Stanley Nelson’s Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2020), as both Miles and Coltrane’s lives were forever altered by experiencing the genius of Charlie Parker in concert at a young age, as he was capable of doing things on his alto saxophone that no one else had ever done, literally blowing the minds of these developing young musicians.  Miles and Coltrane may be the two most iconic figures in American jazz, and they collaborated at the height of their respective careers, with Coltrane initially working with Miles in 1955, believing at the time he had reached a zenith in his career, but he followed too closely in the footsteps of Parker, prey to the seductive pimps and drug pushers that hung around jazz clubs in those days, developing a heroin habit, even at the expense of his career, where he and saxophonist Jimmy Heath were caught getting high between sets, both immediately fired by Davis, who didn’t allow drugs to interfere with the business of making music.  Coming early on in the film, it provides something of a jolt, as immediately he’s canned and out on his ass before the film really had a chance to get started.  Down in the doldrums, he goes cold turkey, something requiring great fortitude, going through withdrawals on his own, with his stepdaughter Antonia Andrews recalling he was vomiting all night and sick with fever, but each successive day he was a little bit better.  Flashing back to his boyhood in North Carolina, both of his grandparents were preachers, so he grew up immersed in the church, where spiritual salvation was at the fiber of his being, fixating on music as a lifeline in the Jim Crow South, as his mother sang and played piano, while his father played clarinet and violin.  According to Dr. Cornel West, who taught classes on Coltrane at Princeton and who himself is the grandson of a Baptist minister, explaining how blacks came out of the brutal conditions of slavery, “We gonna share and spread some soothing sweetness against the backdrop of a dark catastrophe.  That’s black music,” claiming further, “Black music was the response to being traumatized.”  Experiencing some dark times, at age 12 he lost his father, uncle, and two grandparents in the space of just two years.  Out of work and needing a source of income, his mother moved to Philadelphia and made enough money to afford music lessons for her son, buying him his first saxophone, switching from the clarinet to the saxophone.  Coltrane was in the Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor after the war, recording with other enlisted men in an all-white swing band playing jazz standards and be-bop tunes, returning to Philadelphia afterwards to study jazz theory on the G.I. Bill.  According to Wynton Marsalis, listening to those early Navy recordings offer no indication whatsoever of the astounding talent he would become.  Made with the support of the John Coltrane Estate, utilizing astonishing, never-before-seen Coltrane family home movies, footage of John Coltrane in the studio with Monk, Miles Davis and others, along with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and rare television appearances from around the world, incisive commentary is provided from musicians that worked with him, like childhood friend Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, and the always real Sonny Rollins, but also those who have been inspired by his indomitable artistry, including Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Doors drummer John Densmore, and Common, along with a surprisingly eloquent President Bill Clinton, who famously plays the saxophone, with more commentary from Coltrane’s own children, two of his biographers, Ben Ratliff and Lewis Porter, and jazz scholar Ashley Kahn.  What separates Coltrane from everyone else is that after he gets clean from drugs and alcohol, he then goes on a creative, artistic and spiritual quest the likes of which we have perhaps never seen over a 10-year period by any artist in any medium, becoming one of the seminal figures of jazz.  It might recall the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson whose life and death remain shrouded in mystery, growing up in the Mississippi Delta during the Great Depression, whose musical skills, according to bluesman Son House, were less than stellar.  But after going down to the proverbial crossroads and traveling across the Delta for two years (making a mythological deal with the devil), he returned a bona fide genius of his craft, summoning skills seemingly from out of nowhere, Robert Johnson: The Life And Legacy Of The Blues Giant, doing an infamous recording session over the course of five days, producing just 29 songs, but nearly all of them have become classic standards in the blues canon, forever known as a master of the blues.  Entirely scored with the music of John Coltrane, as access was granted from the entire catalogue, music becomes the major focus of the film, serving as an unspoken narration heard throughout, as he never speaks onscreen, instead Denzel Washington reads from his own interviews and liner notes published between 1957 and 1967.  One major drawback is the persistent use of paintings from the colorfully animated artwork of Rudy Gutierrez in Gary Golio’s children’s book Spirit Seeker – John Coltrane’s Musical Journey.  Rather than enhance the emotional barometer of the artist, this feels somehow indulgent, not so much about Coltrane as another man’s artistic vision.     

In the late 40’s and early 50’s Coltrane worked with Dizzy Gillespie, but it wasn’t until he worked with Miles Davis that his career took off, known as the “First Great Quintet,” which disbanded after Coltrane’s heroin addiction, with Davis aggravated by his unreliability, but once he experienced what he described as “a spiritual awakening,” getting completely off drugs and alcohol, where he’s more clear-headed and sharper mentally, his music changed.  Spending time under the tutelage of Thelonious Monk, with his unique sense of time and composition, refining his skills, learning about harmonic progression, he worked alongside Monk at the Five Spot Café in a 6-month residency in the latter half of 1957 before rejoining Miles Davis in 1958, recreating a small band that simply changed the course of jazz, performing in a quintet/sextet that primarily spotlighted the introverted Coltrane, who was solitary yet driven, serving as a catalyst, providing a greater depth of expression that Davis was seeking.  Miles saw in Coltrane an intelligent, deeply probing and creatively inventive artist mirroring the professionalism in how he viewed himself, often lacking in fellow musicians.  What sustained and influenced Miles in his relationship with Coltrane was not only his sound and the innovation of his improvisations, but the quality of their musical dialogue together, exploring various relationships of intervals in chord construction and melodic variation, reacting in conversations to one another onstage, where Miles was lyrical and succinct, while Coltrane was more rhapsodic.  Offstage they had diametrically opposite personalities, as Coltrane was quiet, pensive, and self-critical to a fault, practicing obsessively, while Davis was arrogant, cocksure, and demanding, surrounded by the company of friends, often venturing into the public eye.  But once they took the stage they reversed roles, as Coltrane was more freely uninhibited in his constant exploration, while Davis became the more sensitive introvert, often muted and hushed, exuding vulnerability.  Miles quickly realized that Coltrane was not just a great sideman, but the perfect counterpoint to his own subdued trumpet.  According to Miles, “After we started playing together for a while, I knew that this guy was a bad motherfucker who was just the voice I needed on tenor to set off my voice.”  Their contrasting approach was even more pronounced during impromptu performances, as Coltrane was obsessing over harmonic variation and would take even more extended time for his improvisations, as his solos grew longer and longer, rare for Davis to allow, but he couldn’t silence this magical voice.  When they stepped into a recording studio, they first recorded Milestones - Miles Davis - (Full Album) (48:00), legendary in its own right, and then M I L E S D A V I S - Kind Of Blue - Full Album (1:18:05), the most successful jazz album in history.  In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that honored it as a national treasure, sumptuous and vital music that’s alternately exhilarating and emotive, rhythmically dynamic and smoothly flowing, complex and easy on the ear.  It’s music that defies classification.  What had been great jazz from the earlier 1955-57 Davis quintet, now broke through to a category of timelessness, finally fulfilling the promise of their collaborative magic.  But Coltrane’s self-assurance only grew in stature, literally outgrowing the group, feeling straightjacketed by the small combo format, needing more time to explore on his own, heading his own group and releasing his own album John Coltrane - Giant Steps (2020 Remaster) [Full Album] (37:32) just a few weeks afterwards, writing all of the compositions himself, including the hauntingly beautiful composition named after his wife, Naima - YouTube (4:25), allegedly Coltrane’s favorite.  It was a declaration of creative independence, acknowledging Coltrane’s arrival as a fully matured, triple threat, a soloist, bandleader and composer.  His musical vision was leading him in a direction away from Miles, who sensed Coltrane drifting away.  While there’s nary a contrary word spoken against him in the entire film, which, in itself, is remarkable, Coltrane was a man of few words, who let his music speak for him.  Jazz critic Ira Gitler coined the term “sheets of sound” to describe his style, as he strung together arpeggios so dense that his saxophone seemed to play multiple notes at once.

A creative restlessness continually propelled John Coltrane, becoming fanatical about practicing and developing his craft, practicing “25 hours a day” according to Jimmy Heath, who recalled an incident in a San Francisco hotel after a complaint was issued, so Coltrane took the horn out of his mouth and silently practiced fingering for a full hour.  Before Coltrane, jazz was urban music, expressing a mournful, existential sound of the city, but Coltrane took that sound and honed it down to its transcendent core, becoming an affirming and ecstatic sound of faith.  First he moved to the soprano sax to produce variations on a mainstream show tune from The Sound of Music that became an extremely popular crossover hit, My Favorite Things - John Coltrane [FULL VERSION] HQ (13:46), featuring Jimmy Garrison on bass, the free-flowing style of Elvin Jones on drums, and the remarkably inventive McCoy Tyner on piano, whose foundational layers of chordal support were complimentary, yet revolutionary in their own right.  Coltrane divorced his first wife, where heated acrimony in the household was simply never previously seen, as both were inwardly reserved, but he met pianist Alice McLeod at the club Birdland, got married and raised a family with three children.  By all indications both were gentle spirits, quiet and inwardly spiritual, yet home movie videos reveal these were the happiest years of his life, relaxed and content with his new role as a father, seen smoking his pipe in the back yard, playing with a dog and the couple’s children, while continuing to explore the outer and inner realms of his spiritual dimensions, disappearing into an attic above the garage in their home on Dix Hills, Long Island, eating only sporadically while remaining sequestered, working on a new musical composition, but when he was finally finished, sheet music in hand, according to his wife, “it felt like Moses coming down from the mountain.”  Shaped by his inner faith, it would be his opus jazz record, a four-part suite called A Love Supreme, John Coltrane - A Love Supreme [Full Album] (1965) YouTube (32:48), which was released in 1965, his pinnacle studio outing and one of the most acclaimed jazz records ever, surpassed only by Kind of Blue, Top 25 Jazz Albums of All Time, widely recognized as a work of deep spirituality with an underlying religious subtext, a journey into the realms of religious exaltation, a hymn-like anthem of love offering peace and supreme praise to God.  Carlos Santana insists that he plays the music whenever entering hotel rooms, cleansing the surroundings of any lingering evil spirits, keeping the bad vibes away.  Among the more compelling aspects of the film is its drive to an emotionally poignant finale, where one of the film’s most powerful sequences comes with the stark black-and-white footage of protesters being attacked with water hoses and police dogs in the wake of the tragic Birmingham bombing as Coltrane’s haunting Alabama plays, John Coltrane - Alabama YouTube (5:09).  He wrote the song in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing (1963) - National Park ..., a moving lament written in memory of four little girls who were murdered by a Ku Klux Klan bombing, where the mournful melody was inspired by the spoken cadence of Rev. Martin Luther King at the eulogy, as Elvin Jones’s drumming rises from a whisper to a pounding rage.  When Dr. Cornel West speaks of the work, “Martin Luther King Jr. and John Coltrane, hand in hand, represent the best of the human spirit.”  Coltrane’s group grew more avant garde, free from all constraints and barriers, where the music was pure improvisation, throwing themselves into abstract world music and the free jazz movement where solos could last for more than an hour, with many in the audience walking out, as Coltrane was going further out there in the cosmos than most listeners wanted to go.  According to John Densmore, “He had the right to go out as far as he wanted,” while saxophonist Wayne Shorter claimed Coltrane was preoccupied with the “seeking of universal truth.”  Coltrane’s last tour was across Japan, where he was embraced as a national hero.  In Nagasaki he asked to be taken to the Nagasaki Peace Park Memorial constructed on the site where the atomic bomb was dropped in WWII, a sacred place to the Japanese people, where he stood for some time meditating on the ghastly experience.  The centerpiece of the music played that night was entitled Peace On Earth, Peace On Earth (Live At Shinjuku Kosei Nenkin Hall, Tokyo ... YouTube (25:01), a transcendent work demonstrating not just a deep compassion for the country and its people, but the suffering they endured after the atomic bombing.  Introducing Coltrane that night was Yasuhiro “Fuji” Fujioka, who has authored five books on Coltrane, and may be the #1 collector of Coltrane memorabilia in the world, building a shrine called The Coltrane House in Osaka, コルトレーン・ハウス - livedoor, filled with every record and all the memorabilia he could attain.  His obsession with Coltrane started in high school when he heard him on the radio, feeling it was an utter revelation, a feeling that never left him.  During the end of the tour Coltrane complained of side pain and died suddenly at the young age of 40 from liver cancer, happening very quickly, taking the world by surprise.  Coltrane left behind a catalogue of musical recordings that include all the various phases he went through in his creative development, with President Clinton indicating “He kind of did everything Picasso did, in about 50 years less time,” while his wife Alice Coltrane observed, “He always explored higher vistas knowing that there is always something higher, something greater.”