The dizzying heights and lowest moments of John Coltrane's life are portrayed with energy and care by Golio and Gutierrez, both of whom have experience translating the lives of musicians into picture books (Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, for Golio, and When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag," for Gutierrez). The prominence of religion in Coltrane's life is evident throughout, from his early years living with his reverend grandfather to his embrace of world religions after recovering from drug addiction as an adult. "If music could make people laugh, dance, and sing... it could open their hearts and minds and bring them closer to God," writes Golio. Gutierrez works in acrylic and other media, creating sweeping, layered compositions that embody the lonely sadness of the blues, burst with colors and swirls evocative of bebop, and reflect the search for transcendence particular to hymns. Twin afterwords (one discusses Coltrane, the other the history of musicians and drug and alcohol abuse) and an artist's note close out this edifying story of a jazz legend. Ages 9–12. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)
"Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated and deeply respectful of both subject and audience."
—Kirkus, starred review
"The art ingeniously gets across the intangibles in Coltrane's story as Golio tells it."
"As an impressionistic introduction to a jazz giant, this should whet appetites to learn and hear more."
"Gutierrez's wildly kinetic and occasionally fantastical paintings are appropriately heartfelt and groovy."
—New York Times Book Review
"A well-conceived marriage of art and text breathes life and passion into this picture biography."
—School Library Journal, starred review
"The dizzying heights and lowest moments of John Coltrane's life are portrayed with energy and care by Golio and Gutierrez."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Gr 4–6—A well-conceived marriage of art and text breathes life and passion into this picture biography. Swirling strokes of vibrant colors give the book an almost cinematic quality, animating Coltrane's passionate journey from a joyous, nurturing early childhood with a loving extended family to the despair of losing too many loved ones in a short time. The music that had always been a part of the family's life and a strong involvement in the church sustained him as he struggled to find his way. As he grew older, his musical talent developed and led him to a career that became legendary, performing with greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. But the demons of loss and despair always haunted him. While a traveling professional musician, he began drinking, and when things became overwhelming, he succumbed to drugs. He looked for guidance in philosophy and world religions. Eventually, through intense determination inspired by the help of his second wife, Alice Coltrane, herself a musician, he managed to leave drugs behind. Coltrane's musical accomplishments and short career proved intensely significant in the history and development of jazz and bebop. Though technically a two-dimensional format, this unique selection has a kinetic and animate quality that envelops readers and honors the vibrancy of Coltrane's place in music. An afterword, author's note, and artist's note augment the book's perspective. A list of varied resources, both print, audio, and a website, offer additional opportunities for further examination.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
In attuned counterpoint, Golio and Gutierrez present a portrait of John Coltrane's lifelong quest to discover and share his spiritual truth through music. Beginning with John's 12th year, Golio traces his religious roots: Grandfather Blair, a Methodist minister, headed a household including John's parents, aunt and cousin. Within two years, his grandparents, father and uncle died, splintering the family. In one bright spot, a pastor began a community band, leading to a borrowed sax and lessons for John. His musical gift bloomed amid loneliness and setbacks. Touring's pressures led to alcohol and drug dependence. Golio continuously weaves such biographical details into the tapestry of spiritual longing that characterized Coltrane's life. "He began falling asleep onstage. Or showing up late, only to be fired. Part of him stood in the darkness, while another part was searching for the light." Gutierrez's full-bleed acrylic paintings pulse with emotional intensity and iconic religious images; Coltrane is often shown with a halo or wings. Expressionist color channels Coltrane's psychic life: His hobby-filled childhood is sweet potato pie–sunny; a scene of drug withdrawal is moonlit black. Portraits of jazz influences--Dizzy, Duke, Bird--appear throughout. Coltrane's spiritual apex, a vision coinciding, Golio notes, with the development of his masterwork, A Love Supreme, is depicted with John meditating, Buddha-like against glowing pink. Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience. (afterword, author's and artist's notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)