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.