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Complete Africa / Brass Sessions
John Coltrane
Complete Africa / Brass Sessions
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (5) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (3) - Disc #2

In 1961 John Coltrane's explorations of different modes and rhythms led to several powerful works that invoked other cultures, like "Olé," "India," and "Brazilia." While those pieces were all recorded with expanded version...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: John Coltrane
Title: Complete Africa / Brass Sessions
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Grp Records
Release Date: 10/10/1995
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Modern Postbebop, Swing Jazz, Bebop
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPCs: 011105016827, 011105216821

Synopsis essential recording
In 1961 John Coltrane's explorations of different modes and rhythms led to several powerful works that invoked other cultures, like "Olé," "India," and "Brazilia." While those pieces were all recorded with expanded versions of his quartet, "Africa" was a unique opportunity, with Eric Dolphy's arrangements for up to 13 brass and reed instruments providing a setting of volcanic energy for Coltrane's majestic, declamatory tenor and the surging drumming of Elvin Jones. The orchestrations, as well as the solos, vary on the two sessions heard here, and there are also thoughtful adaptations of traditional material like "Greensleeves," a lilting feature for Coltrane's soprano saxophone that recalls the earlier treatment of "My Favorite Things," and "Song of the Underground Railroad." The two-CD complete collection expands on the original release with alternate takes of "Africa" and "Greensleeves" as well as a previously unissued recording of "The Damned Don't Cry." --Stuart Broomer

CD Reviews

The Horn Of Africa
El Lagarto | Sandown, NH | 04/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There's a lot of mischief in the world of CD production. When content doesn't match available time, sometimes suppliers make up the difference with "filler" of questionable merit. While some alternate takes are interesting, others didn't make the first release because frankly they weren't as good as the one that did. The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions is a shining exception to this trend.

I was first drawn to it because I simply had to have Song Of The Underground Railroad, one of my absolute favorite John Coltrane selections. Not only is the melody incredibly infectious, it races with urgency and power until the title resonates in your heartbeat. Greensleeves, candidly, is not my cup of tea; it never lifted off the ground like Favorite Things for me. But Africa, now this is a different story. I consider Africa to be one of Coltrane's major compositions, very ambitious, very grand, and brilliantly realized. The scope of the piece is on a scale with its subject, and just look at the players. When you've got Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Trane, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones on your team, (among others); with Dolphy writing the charts, you have what is known as "an embarrassment of riches".

This is why it's so great that three different takes are included. To have three very different interpretations of Africa offers new ways of appreciating this extraordinary accomplishment, adding richness and texture to what was already incredibly layered and complex. As is so often the case with Impulse!, lovely packaging and an excellent booklet. This is the horn of plenty, Dolphy paints the background and Coltrane simply soars above the landscape. Worth getting and listening to over and over."
A World Unto Itself
yawuh2002 | USA | 03/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The fact that this is my desert-isle Coltrane pick has caused some consternation amongst my Trane-devoted friends, but I've stuck by this recording for years. Like the best albums in any genre, it creates and sustains its own mood - a very evocative, transporting, colorful listening experience. Maybe it's the added horn textures that do the trick for me; maybe it's the way Elvin and the bassists lock in on the last take of Africa, or maybe it's the way Trane's yearning sound finds a perfect home over these elastic backdrops. Objectively speaking, this two-disc set does sum up some key operations in Coltrane's oeuvre: there's a 6/8 soprano feature (Greensleeves), a minor blues (um, Blues Minor), an uptempo charger (Song of the Underground Railroad), and a worldly workout (Africa). Each of which can stand with any of Coltrane's other recordings from the early `60s.The alternate takes are valuable, and no one is forced to listen to all of them in each sitting; the stop/forward/program buttons on CD players are fairly easy to operate. As the Hardy Boys once intoned, it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have. Africa does go thru some notable changes with each take, so why not observe and enjoy the differences? Overall, a very satisfying collection from a most productive musician."
Explosive and articulate
Joost Daalder | South Australia | 12/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I remember that when I first owned the LP version at around age 21 my father complained, whenever he heard the music on this album: "There is that suicidal maniac again." It was a crude assessment, but while no doubt much of this sounded like a blurred noise to him, he could nevertheless detect a purpose of sorts. And certainly Coltrane sounded like a man possessed here, and still does. But to those who opened their ears he did, more than on several earlier or later recordings, sound hugely eloquent and in command of his music (not just his instruments). This remains an enormously powerful, harmonious and even melodious work of art - one of the best from its period, and certainly one of Coltrane's best. It is odd that it is not regularly put ahead of, or at least alongside with, many of the more popular records like "Blue Train" and "My Favourite Things", for in many ways both Coltrane and the (daringly orchestrated) band sound yet more distinctive and innovative than anything on those small-group recordings. The title track, "Africa", a very long piece, is strongly evocative of that continent, with all its grandeur, depth and complexity. Something like "Greensleeves", by contrast, is an ordinary, traditional English tune, beautiful by itself, but here rendered in a specially haunting, mesmerising way. Only Coltrane could play as he does on this record, and noone else can imitate him successfully on his own ground. This was, and remains, a musical bombshell, and even though Coltrane at times sounds tormented, for sure, he does not make those of his listeners who are attuned to him think of suicide at all. Rather, one is delighted to (try and) follow him in his breathtaking and life-enriching explorations. - Joost Daalder (see more about me)"