Not Trane’s greatest album, but by no means a bad record. These are epic pieces of modal/free jazz, with a large ensemble, leisurely-unfolding melodies and solos, and suggested rather than overtly stated meter. Some of the most beautiful moments come when everything stands still, sax (Coltrane) or piano (Tyner) stop all motion and sit, suspended (suspensefully or tranquilly?) on a trill or a single note before winding off into another direction to begin the next part of the composition. This even happens at the end of the drum solo in “Africa”, the first and longest track. Coltrane’s version of “Greensleeves” swings, beginning with a short bass solo that has been sampled in the electronica tune “Waltz for Koop”; the sax solo here is Coltrane at his most evocative, sliding in and out of the melody with suggestions of blues. The piano solo has an interesting (but too short) passage on open fourths. “Blues Minor” has the only overtly “African” sound on the CD; the melody is stated in syncopated open-fifths in the manner of some South African traditional music. Lastly, “Song of the Underground Railroad” is a rocker with drumming that is somehow both manic and understated. There are several additional tracks on the CD, but generally such “bonus material” is like “deleted scenes” in a movie: extra bits that the artists rejected for various reasons – interesting for the “big picture” but not necessary for the finished recording.
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