John Coltrane is probably one of the best saxophone players who ever lived and performed and yet when music enthusiasts speak of Jazz they conveniently forget him. I had almost forgotten how much I loved his music till I started reading the very-well capsulated and drawn graphic novel of his life by Paolo Parisi.
I believe that if you are setting to capture an artist’s life through a graphic novel, it isn’t enough sometimes. You need more than graphics to do justice to the artist and his or her life. However, while reading Coltrane, I did not feel that way at all. Paolo Parisi has done a great job of telling the story of one of the greatest Jazz musicians beautifully – from his humble beginnings of a deprived childhood in North Carolina to his journey and stumbles along the way in form of drugs, a broken marriage and a successful second one to his solo recordings and his name high up there with the legends such as Miles Davis (who he started working with coincidentally). The book but obviously ends with his death due to liver cancer.
All of this in the book is layered with quotes from interviews and articles with Coltrane, Malcolm X (in whose movement Coltrane was highly involved), to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church by the Klu Klux Clan (to whose victims Coltrane then dedicated a song).
The book worked for me as I wanted to know more about Coltrane’s life. About the artist who constantly broke boundaries in his music and was not afraid to experiment. Parisi through his writing bows to that musical genius by converting his life to a graphic novel. Or maybe at some level it is easier and more accessible for people who don’t have the patience to read biographies anymore. The book interestingly is also divided into four parts that mirror Love Supreme’s four parts: Acknowledgment, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm.
At the end of it all, Parisi provides a simple and yet emotional insight to one of the greatest artists’ who ever lived. Read this one while listening to Coltrane’s music. It has quite a mesmerizing effect. Here is Love Supreme for you: