Chasing Trane, the new documentary about saxophonist John Coltrane opens with a digital trip through the cosmos. Coltrane’s music arranges the galaxies, and a constellation forms to assemble his image while disembodied voices rhapsodies about the great jazz musician. Time after time again, the name “John Coltrane” is said; in case there is any confusion whatsoever about the subject of the doc. It’s a theme that continues throughout the movie, one that even the subtitle seems to reference, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary.
Directed by John Scheinfeld—his previous Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) earned an Oscar nomination—Chasing Trane is a 90-minute lovefest supreme about the influential sax player. Reading from Coltrane’s words, Denzel Washington presides as this movie’s master of ceremonies about Coltrane’s story, talent, drug addiction, and musical contributions. All presented in the typical fashion of archival footage and photographs with modern-day talking heads interviews, each one frustratingly intoning “John Coltrane” for dramatic effect every 45 seconds. It would be far more enjoyable and illuminating to watch Coltrane perform for 90 minutes than it is to listen to people talk about him.