Among the many albums which John Coltrane recorded for Impulse, "Africa / Brass" – along with "A Love Supreme" (AS-77) – is probably one of his most important. One reason is that on the present album he deviates from a normal quartet formation and employs trumpets, four cor anglais (english horns), baritone sax, two euphoniums and a tuba. This instrumental combination produces a thick carpet of sound above which soar his improvisations on the tenor saxophone. Between the two layers of sound is a continuous African rhythm, provided by the two bass players Art Davis and Reggie Workman who complement one another wonderfully. Apart from John Coltrane, only the pianist McCoy Tyner performs solo interludes.
In the number entitled "Greensleeves" Coltrane takes up the soprano saxophone and an impressive solo at the end of the folkloric theme demonstrates that even a popular song can be made to swing. Like the other two pieces, "Blues In Minor" was arranged for orchestra by Eric Dolphy; it is a thrilling, fast piece in which McCoy Tyner shines alongside Coltrane.
The use of two basses is fundamental to the African rhythm of the album while the low brass instruments deliver the 'atmosphere' which is why the album is appropriately entitled "Africa / Brass". As to the studio and recording technique, the name Rudy Van Gelder says it all. The quality of LP pressings made between 1965 and 1980 was often extremely poor, but rest assured that this album, made in 2006 of new vinyl, is truly top quality.