When Coltrane entered the Van Gelder studio in New Jersey on May 23, 1961, he had not yet recorded with the “classic” quartet. Two parts, McCoy Tyner (piano) and Elvin Jones (drums) had payed in the stunning version of “My Favorite Things” just seven months before. But bassist Reggie Workman would record with Coltrane for the first time in this Africa/Brass session.
This session was a big band set. Among the musicians were Freddie Hubbard and Booker Little on trumpets and Little’s then front-line partner Eric Dolphy on various reeds. Plus five french horns! including, of course, Julius Watkins.
“Greensleeves” didn’t display the full force of the big band or the brilliant arrangements by Dolphy, Tyner and Cal Massey. But it’s 3/4 time and the block chords of Tyner and the ability of Coltrane to alchemize a well-known ditty into an existential cry (all harkening back to “Favorite Things”), is a treat, especially at this time of year.
Personel: Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little (trumpet); Jim Buffington, Donald Carrado, Bob Northern, Robert Swisshelm, Julius Watkins (French horn); Charles Greenlee, Julian Priester (euphonium); Bill Barber (tuba); John Coltrane (soprano,tenor saxophone); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute); Pat Patrick (baritone saxophone); Garvin Bushell (reeds); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).