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July 6, 2015

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Pick of the Day: Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey

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blue greens to right, musician to leftGOLIO, Gary. Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey. illus. by Rudy Gutierrez. 48p. bibliog. discography. further reading. websites. Clarion. 2012. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-23994-1.
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 and prayer, 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

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