Released in 1961, this album retains three-quarters of the quartet that recorded the earlier, ground-breaking 'The Shape of Jazz To Come' and 'Change of the Century', drummer Billy Higgins giving way to the equally talented Ed Blackwell. Otherwise, it's a continuation of that music, concentrating on Coleman tunes and adding a single standard.
The pianoless quartet format and the spare texture of the music exposes all the musicians to scrutiny, and only Cherry really fall short of expectations. Haden's agile bass is excellent - and audible, as is often not the case on jazz recordings of this vintage - Blackwell's drumming is distinctive, and Coleman's sound and compositional sense are as original and compelling as ever. 'Blues Connotation' and 'Beauty Is a Rare Thing' in particular are as good as anything Coleman recorded during this period, but the whole album is very listenable, largely thanks to Coleman's bluesy lyricism. I find myself comparing the group sound not to the bop style - with which it was supposed to represent such a dramatic break at the time - but with recordings made by Steve Lacy around the same time, which also feature a sax soloist with a very distinctive voice, an unusual choice of repertoire and little interest in running the changes at breakneck speed.
Fifty years have elapsed since Coleman and crew recorded this, and with the controversy dead and buried we can now hear it more clearly for what it was and is - just good, fresh jazz.