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Studio album by John Coltrane
Released September 1, 1961[1]
Recorded May 23, 1961 (#2)
June 7, 1961 (#1, 3)
Studio Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
Genre Jazz
Length 33:50
Label Impulse!
Producer Creed Taylor
John Coltrane chronology
My Favorite Things
Olé Coltrane
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
Down Beat
(Original Lp release)
2/5 stars[3]
Jazz Shelf favorable[4]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide 3/5 stars[5]

Africa/Brass is the eighth studio album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1961 on Impulse! Records, catalogue A-6. The sixth release for the fledgling label and Coltrane's first for Impulse!, it features Coltrane's working quartet augmented by a larger ensemble to bring the total number of participating musicians to 21. Its big band sound, with the unusual instrumentation of French horns and euphonium, presented music very different from anything that had been associated with Coltrane to date.


In 1961, Coltrane came into his own as a front-rank force in jazz, his influence growing from years of live performances with Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and leading his own groups, and from the impact of the albums Giant Steps and My Favorite Things.[6] Impulse Records executive Creed Taylor bought out Coltrane's contract with Atlantic Records, making Coltrane the first artist to be signed to the new company's roster.[7] It was the best contract a jazz musician had ever received after Davis with Columbia, one year followed by two-year options for two albums per year with a $10,000 advance against royalties the first year rising to a $20,000 advance for the second and third years.[8] Backed by the resources of ABC Records and set up to be an instant major player in the jazz market, Impulse! offered him greater scope. Coltrane would remain with Impulse! the rest of his life, and to inaugurate his move to the new label he planned a large-group recording.

Coltrane had not been in a recording studio as a leader since the October 1960 sessions for My Favorite Things, although on March 20 and 21, 1961, he had made a last recorded contribution for Davis, guesting on two tracks for Someday My Prince Will Come.[8] Earlier in 1961, Coltrane had invited multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy to join his band, making it a quintet.[9] Around the same time, bassist Steve Davis departed, replaced by Reggie Workman, at times Coltrane pairing him with a second bassist, Art Davis.[10] With this group in tow, on May 23 Coltrane entered the new Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for the first time; Rudy Van Gelder had been the sound engineer for most of his earlier sessions with Prestige Records.[11] Coltrane would make the bulk of his recordings at the Van Gelder studio for the remainder of his career.


Apparently, Coltrane had initially contacted Gil Evans to assist with the arrangements; however nothing came of this and Coltrane called on Dolphy and Tyner to orchestrate.[12] Originally credited to Dolphy alone on the initial release, that has been corrected with the appearance of the 1995 reissue.[13] Coltrane chose the traditional English folk ballad "Greensleeves," done in a similar major/minor contrast as his popular "My Favorite Things."[14] For the two original pieces, "Africa" and "Blues Minor," Dolphy and Coltrane adapted Tyner's piano voicings for the orchestra. A second set of recording sessions for the album took place on June 7.

In 1974, Impulse released a second album culled from the same sessions, The Africa/Brass Sessions, Volume 2. Two additional outtakes appeared on another posthumous Coltrane compilation, Trane's Modes. On October 10, 1995, Impulse released the complete sessions on a two-disc set entitled The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions. Rather than placing the original album on one disc and the outtakes on the other, it divides the disc content by session, with the May 23 results on the first disc and those from June 7 on the second disc.

Reception and influence

In a contemporaneous review that appeared in the January 18, 1962, issue of Down Beat magazine critic Martin Williams had this to say: "In these pieces, Coltrane has done on record what he has done so often in person lately, make everything into a handful of chords, frequently only two or three, turning them in every conceivable way..."[3]

The album impressed minimal music composer Steve Reich, who called it "basically a half-an-hour in F. Jazz musicians say, 'Hey man', what's the changes?' 'F.' 'No! F for half-an-hour!' ".[15]

Track listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Africa" John Coltrane 16:28
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
2. "Greensleeves" traditional, arranged by McCoy Tyner 10:00
3. "Blues Minor" John Coltrane 7:22

1995 reissue disc one

All tracks recorded May 23, 1961.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Greensleeves" (original issue) traditional 10:00
2. "Song of the Underground Railroad" (issued on
Africa/Brass Sessions Vol. 2)
traditional 6:44
3. "Greensleeves" (alternate take issued on
Africa/Brass Sessions Vol. 2)
traditional 10:53
4. "The Damned Don't Cry" (issued on Trane's Modes) Calvin Massey 7:34
5. "Africa" (first version issued on Trane's Modes) John Coltrane 14:08

1995 reissue disc two

All tracks recorded June 4, 1961.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Blues Minor" (original issue) John Coltrane 7:20
2. "Africa" (alternate take issued on Africa/Brass Sessions Vol. 2) John Coltrane 16:08
3. "Africa" (original issue) John Coltrane 16:29


May 23 session only

June 4 session only



  1. ^ Billboard Aug 28, 1961
  2. ^ Africa/Brass at AllMusic
  3. ^ a b Down Beat: July 4, 1963, vol. 30, no. 15
  4. ^ Jazz Shelf website review
  5. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 46. ISBN 0-394-72643-X. 
  6. ^ Lewis Porter. John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 0-472-10161-7, pp. 191.
  7. ^ Ben Ratliff. Coltrane: The Story of A Sound. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. ISBN 978-0-374-12606-3, p. 66.
  8. ^ a b Porter, p. 190.
  9. ^ Porter, p. 192.
  10. ^ Porter, p. 198.
  11. ^ Ratliff, pp. 66-7.
  12. ^ Porter, p. 212.
  13. ^ Porter, p. 213.
  14. ^ Ratliff, p. 67.
  15. ^ Zuckerman, Gabrielle (July 2002). "American Mavericks: An interview with Steve Reich". Music Mavericks Public Radio. Retrieved 16 October 2016. 
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