I am a big admirer of Jazz at Lincoln Center — education programs, musical excellence, and so much more. And their beautiful theater is undeniably a gift to the city which will always deserve our gratitude.
But their puzzling conservative bias still shines through from time to time. Part of their celebration of John Coltrane (it would be his eightieth birthday on September 23) is a panel discussion entitled: “Did Coltrane Lose His Way? Understanding His Last Music.”
Gulp. I don’t think they’d be asking the question unless someone over there thought he did. To their credit, they’ve picked an excellent panel: Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Dr. Lewis Porter, and Jimmy Heath. I’d guess most of them will likely disagree (especially Ali, who played with Coltrane all through this period), but I’m sure it will be a lively discussion.
There has always been controversy about the late music of John Coltrane. J@LC has staked its esthetic territory in saying that Coltrane lost his way after 1965. But by adding the question mark J@LC poses as if they are merely saying that “reasonable people can disagree.” The title manages to dismiss the progressive steps of the master, while pretending it’s just a discussion of his strange and powerful music. In my opinion that’s a sad way of honoring one of our country’s most towering musical figures.
Jon Stewart at The Daily Show did a segment last week on exactly the topic of this bizarre question mark. It’s a very funny take on how the media uses the question mark as a way to say whatever they want, without consequences.
Not to make a tempest in a teapot. J@LC’s celebration of Coltrane is fantastic. But I can think of several more appropriate titles for this panel without too much thought, and with respect for the music. How about:
After The Quartet: Revolution in the Late Music of John Coltrane
Why Did Coltrane Change?
Coltrane’s Controversy: What Was The Change That Shook Jazz?
Moving On: How Coltrane Changed His Music And The World
Creating The Next Generation: How Coltrane Changed Jazz
I’m just saying?