This album is like many Coltrane albums palpably in transition between styles. It follows on from the experiments with dense, irregularly moving chord changes of _Giant Steps_, and also contains a couple reharmonized standards, "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Body and Soul", which have areas of sustained modal exploration in the manner of "My Favourite Things". The band is the first edition of the "classic" Coltrane band, with Steve Davis on bass before Jimmy Garrison hopped on board.
What's most unusual about this album, perhaps, is that it's actually Coltrane's meditation on the bop heritage. Only one tune is completely original, the lovely ballad "Central Park West" (one of my favourite Coltrane tracks; he only states the melody, leaving the improvisation to Tyner, but it's so rounded a statement that like Monk's "Crepuscule with Nellie" it doesn't really need elaboration at all). The other tunes rework standard bop fare via the techniques of movement in thirds and pedal notes that obsessed Coltrane in this period. "Liberia" is a version of "A Night in Tunisia"; "Equinox" is a minor blues but borrows its intro from Parker's intro to "Star Eyes"; "Satellite" is a reworking of "How High the Moon"/"Ornithology"; "26-2" (a rather mysterious title) is a version of "Confirmation". The practice was of course already there on _Giant Steps_ ("Giant Steps" and "Countdown" are themselves based on standards like "Tune Up") but the concentration of such material, & the tenor sax shibboleth "Body and Soul", suggest a rather more self-conscious exploration of the tradition. (Note that Coltrane's albums otherwise rarely contain bop tunes, preferring to concentrate on pop standards when not playing originals.) The quartet's take on these tunes is dark, intense and brooding--this album is a long way from the sunny mood of _Giant Steps_ & _Coltrane Jazz_.
This disc is one of the most interesting of the Atlantics; don't be put off by the ghastly cover-art. This is music of a high order, a little less user-friendly than _My Favourite Things_ but no less important.