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6 Responses to “JOHN COLTRANE / “Africa””

Ms. Berry Says:
January 15th, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Sweet ‘Trane. I am in love with A Love Supreme and naturally Kind of Blue. I am still exploring this fascinating artist…would love to see more about him. Love the discussion…would like a little background about your personal connections.

spirit Says:
January 17th, 2006 at 5:07 pm

thank you for documenting our music. please save all of your blog entries in a safe place (read: get a portable extra hard drive). it seems to me you have the makings of an excellent book on black music and how it affects/affected members of two generations.

Jason Says:
January 18th, 2006 at 10:47 am

My favorite Trane track, this one has always been important for me because it was my first introduction to Eric Dolphy, and I think it is his presence (he was responsible for some of the arrangements) that give this piece its atmosphere (the elephants trumpeting for instance), and Elvin Jones work here sounds like a precursor of what Tony Allen later provided for Fela.

Lynn Says:
January 19th, 2006 at 10:27 am

As usual, every time I check in to BOL I get a music education and walk around for days afterward lamenting the lack of high school courses entitled “The Elephant and The Lion: Coltrane, Jones and Improvisational Dueling in Jazz Performance” or “Echoes of Africa: Music and Genetic Memory in the Black Diaspora.”

Keep on. And ditto what Spirit said about the book.

ekere Says:
January 19th, 2006 at 4:49 pm

This is one of my favorite Coltrane pieces. I actually like all of the interpretations. Each one does something different. Beautiful. Thanks! 🙂

one love,

AumRa Says:
January 20th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

Some of us buy airline tickets, others buy a dashiki or a bean pie. But when focus swings internally and the African within is reborn, love grows deeper and more purposeful. Who am I? From where did I come? Why am I here? For some, these eternal questions precede the in-breath, the need to be touched and the craving for food.

In 1961, two years after kicking a heroin and alcohol addiction, two years after recording, what would later become, two distinct, groundbreaking recordings (one at Carnegie Hall with Monk and Kind of Blue with Miles), John Coltrane recorded the music for his first recording for the, still in it’s infancy, Impulse label.

Africa Brass is a stark contrast to the pastoral leisure and mint julep coolness of Porgy and Bess. There is a brass ensemble instead of strings. Eric Dolphy arrangements and not Gil Evans. This ain’t no homogenized interpretation of life on the plantation with a soundtrack of smiling sharecroppers singing. Metal is the element of Ogun and Africa Brass is a masculine sound. Africa Brass is a Black man’s oratory delivered without apology or compromise.

Everything about this recording is a celebration of triumph. The tempo of Song of the Underground Railroad is the engine that propels the recording. The rhythm section is the dynamo that sets the tempo. Elvin and McCoy playing with and off one another is almost like telepathic communication. Though stout in timbre the drum pulsates through the body of the song with an animation that is as vivacious as tradional dance in full tilt. The piano’s variation on the theme and deft use of chord placement displays a sophisticated econmy of expression. Wetting the appetite, McCoys’ comps fall delicately into the cracks of the piece as if from a great, all-knowing resevoir of awareness. Togehter, the duo compliment each other so completely, it’s like listening to one instrument. It is brilliantly clear that Jones (the tubman) and Tyner (the North Star) lead this ensemble with a fierce disregard for stragglers. The arrangement exudes strength and the joyous motion heard in the massive exodus of a strong people sure of victory in struggle. The trumpet is an heroic sound, the French horn is noble, the trombone and euphonium, muscular and the tuba is deep and supportive. No matter whether you are charging ahead or running away, the sound of Africa Brass is as urgent and groundbreaking as a stampeding rhinoceros. Moving with the precise dignity and sorrow of a dirge, The Damned Don’t Cry sings of tragedy. The track has a dense and complex chordal structure, which, on the surface, sounds dark but whose pulse hides an underlying brooding that compels us to check for vital signs of hope and strength in troubling situations. Listen to the composer’s and arranger’s use of voicing and cadences – especially at the end of phrases and definely the final chord. The damn don’t cry for they are far too strong and removed from such human frailties; they live to win wars not battles. On the title cut, Art Davis and Reggie Workman offer up a tandem pedal tone and bouncy call and response duet. McCoy follows with a rumbling tremolo in the lower register of the piano. The tension starts to build. Next – and this is where the true awareness of Eric Dolphy comes into play, the first note of the main theme is the fifth degree of the scale. The fifth degree is the sound of completion. Whereas, in the minor chord, the first degree is the tonic, the beginning or the foundation, next the minor third is the blue tone, the discord, that thing in the middle of the washing machine, finally fifth represents completion. To start on the fifth degree is sending a message; victory is assured. Africa Brass is a stron cultural statement, a Black code.

God asked Ogun to blaze a trail through the forest and Ogun responded by telling God, “It is already done.”

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