The album newly remastered from the original master tapes. John Coltrane assembles a 20-piece band for these three songs. There's McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones, and 16 others. It's heavy on brass, per the title, there are five french horns, for example. There are notable players like Eric Dolphy, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and Julian Priester in the band, but the solos are by Coltrane, Tyner, or Jones. The orchestration was done by Coltrane, Tyner, and Dolphy. The liner notes say Dolphy did a lot of it, later it came out Tyner did more (though Dolphy was no longer around to argue the point). It's not really a big band in the Duke Ellington style, but with all of the horns, it's certainly a big band.
John Coltrane's debut for the Impulse label was a bit unusual, for the great tenor and his quartet were joined by a medium-sized backup group on Eric Dolphy arrangements of "Africa," "Greensleeves," and "Blues Minor." "Africa" in particular is quite memorable although Coltrane would not pursue any further recordings in this direction in the future, making this a change of pace in his discography. Allmusic 4.5*/5
The soulful folk songs–past, present and future–which make up THE COMPLETE AFRICA/BRASS SESSIONS are a celebration of freedom: the freedom to create on a higher plane, the freedom he felt in playing with his new quartet. In a sense, THE COMPLETE AFRICA/BRASS SESSIONS are a celebration of McCoy Tyner's contribution to the group. Tyner's distinctive block voicings, and his method of modulating in fourths were a major part of the quartet's sound. Reed innovator Eric Dolphy (who joined Coltrane's Quartet later in 1961) took melodic ideas and chords from Coltrane and Tyner, and developed brass-reed orchestrations that echoed the characteristic Tyner sound, and the quartet's mode of interaction. Cal Massey's "The Damned Don't Cry" is a fascinating exception, as Dolphy allows individual voices to glisten against the dusky shadow of ten brass.
Brass Construction continued to avoid the scrap heap, turning out another better-than-expected album. There were two more good singles in "Walkin' the Line" and "We Can Work It Out," and the production, arrangements, instrumental support, and vocals were all more inspired than they had been in the past.
"Brass Hommage" is a tribute to the inimitable sound which has made German Brass famous. It acknowledges the success of an audio vision come true: to create a chamber-music ensemble with ten brass musicians, a group with the sound potential of a mighty organ, a symphony orchestra or a big band – a vision which the German Brass musicians have achieved with the musical elegance that is their very own. Their special arrangements have made them into inventors of a highly refined sound idiom that was to become their hallmark. It is compositions for the organ and symphonic works from the classical field that provide the brass players with inspiration, but jazz standards or South American music deliver an equal appeal and the challenge to expand the palette of tone colours. A tango like "La Cumparsita" can transform into the rhythm of a bandoneon, while music by Cole Porter exudes a touch of Broadway flair, "As Time Goes By" conjures up the power of the images from the legendary film "Casablanca", and a jazz classic like "Bourbon Street Parade" emulates the sound of a Dixieland band from New Orleans.