The World According to John Coltrane

The World According to John Coltrane
Directed by Robert Palmer, Toby Byron
Produced by Toby Byron, Richard Saylor
Written by Robert Palmer
Starring Rashied Ali, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, La Monte Young, Alice Coltrane
Narrated by Ed Wheeler
Distributed by BMG Video
Release dates
  • 1990 (1990)
Running time
59 minutes
Language English

The World According to John Coltrane is a documentary film about saxophonist John Coltrane.[1]


Produced with the cooperation of his widow Alice Coltrane, the documentary focuses on the later period of Coltrane's work where he explored themes of Eastern spirituality. The film features reminiscences and interviews with his contemporaries and fellow musicians.

The documentary is narrated by Ed Wheeler and directed by Robert Palmer and Toby Byron. Because Coltrane died from liver disease in 1967, there isn't that much footage available and you sense they were struggling to find source material. Hence the reliance on reminiscences and lots of fancy zooms on stills. Of great interest to Coltrane scholars will be the recording of John Coltrane while in the Navy (1947) playing the alto saxophone (on Charlie Parker's "Ko-Ko")--by far the earliest recording of the saxophonist that has yet surfaced, and a few excerpts from concert and studio performances. Most of the footage is in black and white, apart from an excerpt of Coltrane's last quartet (featuring wife Alice Coltrane on piano and Rashied Ali on drums) performing in concert in colour.

The documentary focuses very much on the middle period of Coltrane's career, with only brief references to his rhythm and blue roots, collaborations with Jimmy Heath, and his participation in the Miles Davis Quintet. Much of the documentary focuses on the classic John Coltrane Quartet (with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison), from about the period of My Favorite Things to A Love Supreme.

Surprisingly, there is very little focus on John Coltrane's personal life - including his marriage to Alice Coltrane, his son Ravi, and the documentary even avoids talking about his death.

Musicians interviewed include


  1. A Love Supreme
  2. Alabama
  3. Blue Monk
  4. Dahomey Dance
  5. Dear Lord
  6. Eight Miles High
  7. Giant Steps
  8. Gospel Song 1
  9. Gospel Song 2
  10. Hot House
  11. Impressions
  12. Impressions 2
  13. India
  14. Koko
  15. Moroccan Folk Song
  16. My Favorite Things
  17. My Favorite Things 2
  18. Naima
  19. Number One
  20. Raga Bhimpalisi
  21. Roscoe In Morocco
  22. Round Midnight
  23. So What
  24. Things To Come


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