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Africa/Brass Original recording remastered

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, February 19, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Coltrane's daring 1961 collaboration with Eric Dolphy!
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 19, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B000W4KSVK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,259 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is a classic album by John Coltrane. It's his first for the Impulse! record label; he would become readily associated with the label, recording all of his great mature albums for it. Due to Coltrane's prominence in the jazz world, Impulse! would also become an important jazz label during the 1960s and a major documenter of the avant garde.

This was also Coltrane's first project with a large ensemble: here he is the featured soloist in a big band conducted and arranged by Eric Dolphy (with wonderful thick, dissonant brass textures that perfectly complement the driving sound that the Coltrane quartet was then perfecting).

So, for fans of Coltrane, of the avant garde, and of the Impulse! label, this album can be safely called a "must-have."

That said, I can NOT recommend this particular reissue. In the past few years, Universal Music Group has been reissuing classic jazz from the Verve and Impulse! labels in inferior versions: sloppy remastering, and packaging that is much less solid that the great Impulse! reissues from the mid- to late-90s (under "GRP" auspices). The most heinous crime in the case of Africa/Brass is that it was already reissued (back in the 1990s) in a spectacular TWO-DISC version that provided fascinating (and musically successful) alternate takes. Now UMG reissues it AGAIN, but with none of the great extra material already recovered?

This reissue is typical of UMG recent's jazz reissue program - it's a lazy, sloppy, and disrespectful series of reissues. Most of the classic material was reissued before in MUCH better versions.

I cannot stress it enough: stay away from this reissue of Africa/Brass, and say away from the "Originals" series on Verve and Impulse! !
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Format: Audio CD
John Coltrane assembles a 20-piece band for these three songs. There's McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones, and 16 others. It's heavy on brass, per the title, there are five french horns, for example. There are notable players like Eric Dolphy, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and Julian Priester in the band, but the solos are by Coltrane, Tyner, or Jones. The orchestration was done by Coltrane, Tyner, and Dolphy. The liner notes say Dolphy did a lot of it, later it came out Tyner did more (though Dolphy was no longer around to argue the point). It's not really a big band in the Duke Ellington style, but with all of the horns, it's certainly a big band.

"Africa" is perhaps the best Coltrane song which isn't on his "classic" albums. It's based on a steady, simple, bass and piano line, giving it a hypnotic, modal feel. The melody lines make the song stand out. "Greensleeves" has a catchy melody. It's very good, though Coltrane seems to be revisiting "My Favorite Things". "Blues Minor" doesn't have the greatest title, and its melody isn't particularily catchy. However, John Coltrane is playing saxophone, and McCoy Tyner plays a great piano solo.

I don't know how this short, original version of the album compares to the longer, more expensive, complete version. It's a very interesting John Coltrane CD, the only "big band" album he led. I recommend it for all Coltrane fans.
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Format: Audio CD
AFRICA/BRASS was John Coltrane's first album for Impulse! and features a somewhat different lineup than the "classic quartet" triumphs he was soon to record for the label. His working band at the time was five-piece, with eventual mainstays Elvin Jones on drums and McCoy Tyner on piano, but two bassists in Reggie Workman and Art Davis. But the most unusual feature of this ensemble, which gives the album its title, is a 15-piece brass band in the background.

The opening "Africa" is a fine display of Coltrane's technical chops, such as rapid-fire notes and a strong main theme. At 16 minutes, it's one of Coltrane's longest tracks, and Tyner and Jones get more room to solo than they often did. When I listened to this album for the first time, I expected some kind of brass extravanganza throughout, but the use of the brass brand is surprisingly restrained. They mainly play some otherworldly glissandi during the opening and conclusion. It's a fun track and quite catchy.

Unfortunately, the following "Greensleeves" comes as something of a disappointment. Coltrane loved the old tune and performed it often, but here it seems to lack the burning intensity, the white-hot passion that Coltrane usually displayed, and instead it strikes me a by-the-numbers affair. The third track, "Blues Minor" features explosive playing by the core band, but I can't help feel like the brass ensemble is intruding during Coltrane's solo here, obscuring a fiery line that is as wild as anything on MEDITATIONS.

So, AFRICA/BRASS isn't at the top of Coltrane's output for the Impulse! label, and it's probably best heard after A LOVE SUPREME, MEDITATIONS and KULU SE MAMA. Still, even lesser Coltrane has spectacular performances and plenty of entertaining moments.
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Format: Audio CD
Africa/Brass is the first John Coltrane record I ever bought. It thoroughly perplexed me.

I was maybe 15 or 16 and way into the Grateful Dead. I read an interview with the band's bass player, Phil Lesh, where he spoke about how he turned his band mates onto Coltrane, specifically via Africa/Brass. I came to learn over the years that the band was incredibly impacted and influenced by Coltrane's early '60s work and that happenstance introduction started me on my exploration.

I was not entirely unfamiliar with or ignorant about jazz at the time, but I had a very, very superficial exposure. I can't even recall what I may have been aware of at the time but there was certainly nothing like Africa/Brass in my consciousness.

What I initially picked up was a cassette tape. This was the mid-80s and if I recall correctly, none of the Impulse! stuff was in print any longer, certainly not on CD. If it was available I wasn't stumbling across it...anyway, I purchased said used cassette and was eager to see what mind-boggling music could have possibly so motivated my musical heroes.

I wish I could say that I was immediately drawn in and absorbed by the music, but that was not the case. The music was incredibly dense to my ears, not at all what I thought "jazzy" should be. Even "Blues Minor", the most bop-like track on the record, was left-of-center for me. Quite frankly, I was confused. Not put off, but thoroughly confused.

I kept that cassette tape for years. As my interest in and knowledge of music grew I would revisit Africa/Brass. I wish I could recall when I finally "got it" but it probably did not take as long as my memory implies.
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