John Coltrane / John Coltrane Quartet

The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions, Vols. 1-2

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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer

This two-disc collection gathers the results of two recording sessions from April and May 1961 with the John Coltrane Orchestra. As the title indicates, The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions includes both volumes of the work and relocates "The Damned Don't Cry" -- originally issued on the Trane's Modes compilation -- to this more chronologically sound release. On this collection, these recordings replicate the sequence in which they were documented. After a successful string of albums on Atlantic Records, Coltrane signed to the burgeoning and jazz-intensive Impulse! label -- a relationship which would be kept for the remainder of his career. Shortly after reprising his role in the Miles Davis Sextet on "Teo" as well as the title track for Davis' Someday My Prince Will Come long-player, Coltrane assembled a 17-piece orchestra and began recording what would become known as Africa/Brass. Among the jazz luminaries contributing to these landmark sessions are: Booker Little (trumpet), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). Coltrane manipulates their power into masterful contrasts between the syncopated rhythms of "Greensleeves" or the full-out bop onslaught of "Songs of the Underground Railroad." The amazing virtuosity in Coltrane's solos has begun to show signs of the future direction his later avant-garde sides would take. The interaction with Tyner on "Songs of the Underground Railroad" is impeccable. Coltrane allows room for Elvin Jones and Reggie Workman to likewise engage Tyner for some high-spirited improvisation. This is a key work in understanding the path John Coltrane's music took in its final phases. The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions brilliantly documents this pivotal era in Coltrane's music.

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