Hayden Childs’ Music Library

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I’m kidding, of course, about the Seven Samurai.  But there is something of Akira Kurosawa in Coltrane, I think.  As Kurosawa was the post-War Japanese director most accessible to Western audiences,  John Coltrane is the most accessible post-bop/free-jazz musician to audiences unattuned to the demands of jazz upon a listener.  Kurosawa was not a director given to compromising his vision, but his tendency to pull ideas and imagery from popular genres such as the Western and popular directors such as John Ford contibuted to the timeless appeal of his movies that allowed his own ideas and imagery to cross back over into Western cinema.  It’s hard to imagine, for instance, where Peckinpah, Coppola, Spielberg, and George Lucas, for instance, would have been without Kurosawa.  Coltrane’s style – the sheets of sound, the honking overblown horns, the endless modal improvisation – was similarly uncompromising.  But Coltrane also used pop music and the blues to give listeners a road-map through his sound, and Coltrane’s passionate rapid-fire sax translated surprisingly well to psychedelic rock of the late 60s and afterwards, contributing to the very idea of an expansive guitar solo.  As Kurosawa led to the epics of the late 60s and pop genre-smashing of the 70s, Coltrane begat Jimi Hendrix and Tom Verlaine.  Not to mention most anyone playing jazz associated with the high period of Modern Jazz.

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