Academic journal article Notes

John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography

Academic journal article Notes

John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography

Article excerpt

John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography. By Yasuhiro Fujioka, with Lewis Porter and Yoh-Ichi Hamada. (Studies in Jazz, 20.) Metuchen. N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1995. [xvii, 377 p. ISBN 0-8108-2986-X. $62.50.]

Japanese discographer (and kimono shop owner) Yasuhiro Fujioka's work on jazz giant John Coltrane was a finalist for the 1996 Association for Recorded Sound Collection's Awards for Excellence, and it is an impressive book. This is not a bio-bibliography or bio-discography in what has become the accepted sense--there is little text--but is instead an excellent chronology or almanac that will serve as a valuable sourcebook for further Coltrane research.

The work begins with Coltrane's first known appearances as a professional musician. These occurred over six mouths during 1945 with a Philadelphia area big band under the leadership of drummer Jimmy Johnson. No recordings are believed to exist, nor is the band's repertory known; Fujioka names the baud members, presumably just as a matter of record. The authors' chief biographical source seems to have been Cuthbert O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (New York: Herndon House, 1975). The scant list of "Reference Materials" (pp. x-xi) omits a number of major references such as Bill Cole, John Coltrane (New York: Schirmer Books, 1976). While this book does not make any pretense toward being a bibliography, more attention to this aspect would have been both welcome and reassuring.

On the other hand, the authors acknowledge direct assistance from (and often interviews with) many people who worked with Coltrane (e.g., Art Taylor, Rudy Van Gelder), other discographers (e.g., Michael Cuscuna), and collectors (including forty-six from Japan). Many documents, such as contracts, recording engineer logs, and playbills, are reproduced in facsimile. In addition to the dozens of photographs (many of which are distributed widely here for the first time), the covers for all of his domestic releases and those of many foreign and domestic reissues parade across the bottom of the pages.

Sprinkled throughout the listings of all known and deduced dates of Coltrane's performances--in concert, at clubs, and in the studio--are a number of notes or "footprints (itinerary)" that trace Coltrane's movements as a musician. Any known (sometimes just presumed or remembered) private recordings of any concert (often taken from radio broadcasts), or outtakes that found their way beyond studio control, are also noted. …

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