Donald Harrison plays quite well throughout this set, displaying a distinctive tone and a consistently creative style within the genre of straight-ahead jazz. All but the last two selections feature him accompanied by bassist Vicente Archer and drummer John Lamkin, both of whom stay very much in the background, often playing repetitive and somewhat dull figures. Pianist Glenn Patscha is on three numbers without making an impression, while the final two songs have Harrison joined by Ron Carter and Billy Cobham.
Altoist Donald Harrison's disc utilizes New Orleans parade rhythms on all of the selections, even while most of the solos (until the final three numbers) are more hard bop than New Orleans jazz. John O'Neal verbally pays tribute to the rhythms on the opening "And How That Rhythm." The other selections include an augmented bop blues ("Two Way Pocky Way"), the tricky "Don't Drink the Water," Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya," a pair of Freddie Hubbard tunes well worth reviving ("Crisis" and "Bob's Place"), Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," and the catchy "Spirits of Congo Square."
On his second album for Impulse!, recorded August 18-September 24, 1998, Donald Harrison continues to proselytize for what he called "nouveau swing" on his first date for the label, even going so far as to sing/rap an explanation of his concept in "Nouveau Swing (Reprise)." Essentially, what he seems to mean by the term is that, within an acoustic quartet setting, he intends to introduce elements of a number of musical genres, for example covering the Meters' funk anthem "Cissy Strut" and having drummer John Lamkin use a reggae feel for "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," the Sigmund Romberg standard he previously recorded on For Art's Sake.
In the context of the decades since his passing and the legacy that's continued to grow, John Coltrane's Selflessness album bears an odd similarity to Bob Dylan's autobiographical book Chronicles. In Chronicles, Dylan tells the tale of his beginnings, jumping abruptly and confoundingly from his early years to life and work after his 1966 motorcycle accident, omitting any mention of his most popular and curious electric era. The contrast between these two eras becomes more vivid with the deletion of the years and events that bridged them. Released in 1965, Selflessness presents long-form pieces, likewise from two very distinct and separate eras of Coltrane's development.
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.