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February 2008

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Venue:
Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania3805 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA Map
Price: Free Admission
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - 6:00pm

Ben Ratliff's Coltrane: The Story Of A Sound

Acclaimed jazz writer Ben Ratliff leads a discussion regarding the content of his latest book, Coltrane, published in September 2007 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In it, Ratliff tells the story of Coltrane's development, from his first recordings as a no-name navy bandsman to his last recordings as a near-saint, paying special attention to the last ten years of his life, which contained a remarkable series of breakthroughs in a nearly religious search for deeper expression.

What was the essence of John Coltrane's achievement that makes him so prized forty years after his death? What was it about his improvising, his bands, his compositions, and his place within his era of jazz that left so many musicians and listeners so powerfully drawn to him? What would a John Coltrane look like now-or are we looking for the wrong signs? Ratliff also traces the lineage of Coltrane's influence and legacy, considering the reactions of musicians, critics, and others who paid attention, asking: Why does Coltrane signify so heavily in the basic identity of jazz? Placing jazz among other art forms and American social history, and placing Coltrane not just among jazz musicians but among the greatest American artists, Ratliff tries to look for the sources of power in Coltrane's music-not just in matters of technique, composition, and musical concepts, but in the deeper frequencies of Coltrane's sound.

"Ben Ratliff's Coltrane is criticism with a sense of the man. It sees the '60s anew without distorting them beyond recognition for someone who was there. It conceptualizes jazz as a still-living music. It makes you want to listen again and think some more." --Robert Christgau

Ben Ratliff has been a jazz critic at The New York Times since 1996. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and their two sons. His New York Times Essential Library: Jazz was published in 2002.