Africa/Brass album cover

John Coltrane


A magical outlier in Coltrane’s discography, this 1961 date features ensembles of as many as 17 players, and arrangements (two basses! four French horns!) that are written to create mood and menace rather than big band slickness. The opening “Africa” is like the moment right before the tiger leaps out of the jungle at you, sustained for a quarter hour, and there’s nothing pastoral about what they do to the English folk tune “Greensleeves”; the album’s final track, “Blues Minor,” deploys the titular brass in a forceful but judicious manner. Mostly it’s a platform for Coltrane to wail, and he does.

Phil Freeman

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