This album reveals yet another dimension to Coltrane's remarkable repetoire of recordings over just a single decade. Africa/Brass bridges the end of his tenure with the Atlantic label and the Classic quartet.It is unique amongst his work in that it is the only time he used jazz orchestra arrangements, with the possible exception of Ascension (although that was more a case of collective improvisation with an expanded group)
It is ambitious in it's scope and content, but succeeds on both counts,the orchestra is very much in the background but is highly effective,and the material itself is varied and fascinating. The original album only contained half the recorded material for these sessions, and as with some of his other recordings on Impulse, the full story did not emerge until after his death, with the release of volume 2. It is all together here, though, including alternate takes and session details.
'Greensleeves' is probably Coltrane's most effective soprano sax performance after 'My Favourite Things,' and was the best known track from this set; however the title track and particularly 'Song of the Underground Railroad' are for me the standout pieces here. The later is a blistering, fast swinging interpretation of an old folk song, a truly brilliant performance from Coltrane and also McCoy Tyner. 'Africa' itself is hard to describe, as it is unlike anything else he recorded; it is a long, slowly unfolding improvisation which builds atmosphere and tension, and the three takes differ significantly.
Overall, this is one of the essential Coltrane albums, so if you are a fan, or you are just getting into Coltrane then this comes highly recommended.