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No other jazz musician has proved so inspirational and so fascinating as Coltrane. Ben Ratliff, jazz critic for the New York Times, has written the first book to do justice to this great and controversial music pioneer. As well as an elegant narrative of Coltrane’s life Ratliff does something incredibly valuable – he writes about the saxophonist’s unique sound.
A singular achievement ... Ratliff has become one of the most eminent music journalists in the country ... His warm, conversational writing style appeals to all readers. [On Jazz: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings]
Ratliff has a genius for seeing a work simultaneously in detail and in its historical context. His descriptions enliven technical detail with metaphor, and the life of the artist with pithy storytelling, salty, enlightening personal prejudices, and a keen historical and musical awareness.
Ratliff's use of the telling detail to convey a larger point is illuminating even if you disagree with his judgements: instead of writing generalized portraits of chosen artists and albums, he begins his discussion of each individual's career with a close-up, then pulls back to reveal more ... His musical analysis is smart yet accessible, and he writes with disarming directness.
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