Personnel: John Coltrane (soprano & tenor saxophones); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, flute); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman, Art Davis (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).
Recorded at A&R Studios, New York, New York on May 25, 1961. Includes liner notes by Ralph J. Gleason.
Having explored all sorts of country cousins of the blues, John Coltrane evokes the spirit of mother Africa and Moorish Spain on this, his final Atlantic recording. Fellow crusaders McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones are joined by Reggie Workman as well as fellow bass virtuoso Art Davis, while Trane's new front-line collaborator Eric Dolphy and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard give him an immense sonic canvas upon which to reinvent jazz. OLE COLTRANE extends the forms, anticipating the freedom and far reaching spiritual pilgrimages of the Impulse! years.
Miles' KIND OF BLUE and the music of Ornette Coleman suggested new improvisational possibilities. For Trane, they represented a way out of his harmonic labyrynth, a pursuit of simpler, more expressive modalities--offering even greater rhythmic/melodic complexity. "Ole" is electrifying, one of Coltrane's greatest collective achievements. Elvin Jones' hypnotic six-beat cymbal pulse, the strummed ostinatos of Workman and Davis, and Tyner's murmuring chordal drone form a syncopated wall of sound--equal parts Iberian dance, desert sirocco and evening raga. Coltrane's soprano emerges to enunciate the meditative theme, and with each successive solo--Dolphy's flute, Hubbard's toreador song, Tyner's impassioned strumming, the bassists' flamenco reverie--the rhythm becomes darker and more impassioned. Then Trane re-enters on his magic carpet, his soprano ablaze in a song of praise.
Coltrane follows with "Dahomey Dance," a tippling blues in the manner of "Freddie Freeloader." Tyner's ringing accompaniment and lyric thunder clothes Elvin's triplet-inflected swing in vibrant raiment, as Hubbard's bumblebee trumpet and Dolphy's tangled bass clarinet yelping answer Coltrane's garrulous tenor in kind. Tyner's "Aisha" is an intricate romantic ballad, moving from a waltzing repeated figure to an evocative 4/4 groove bathed in Jones' luminous brushwork. The way Tyner anticipates each horn's lyric design and echoes Elvin's rhythms, the manner in which he orchestrates single-note melodies and immense two-handed harmonies into song-like choruses, all mark him as the decade's most dominant piano stylist.
Q (3/01, p.116) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...Influenced by Miles Davis' SKETCHES OF SPAIN...its most interesting aspect is actually the personnel: drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner, 2 bassists, a 23-year-old Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and exciting oddball sax/flautist Eric Dolphy..."