These selections were recorded in 1958 and present Coltrane and Burrell in very good form. The emphasis is on improvisation and not on writing or ensemble blend, though Flanagan’s original “Trane” and Burrell’s “Lyresto” are attractive lines that are enhanced by the guitar-tenor combination.
There is an abundance of fine soloing, but it is best to start with Coltrane’s performance.
He was gaining prominence in 1958, but was the subject of much adverse criticism. Listening to him on the first three tracks, we can hear that his ideas are well resolved and his solos have good continuity. On all tracks, he gets a groove and swings infectiously. His playing on “I Never Knew” is quite relaxed.
“Why Was I Born?”, a Burrell-Coltrane duet, demonstrates that Coltrane has one of the finest tenor saxophone tones—pure and hauntingly beautiful—and can control it superbly. “Big Paul,” which takes up most of the second side, has an extremely intense Coltrane solo, but despite its length, the tenorist is never at a loss for ideas. That he is able to sustain such a high degree of emotional excitement for chorus after chorus is remarkable.
Flanagan, too, is brilliant. Though his playing has often been praised, he often is taken for granted. This may be because he recorded with a variety of groups and is not thought of as a member of a particular clique. He probably would have rated much higher in the polls, for instance, if he’d been Miles Davis’ regular pianist over the last few years. At any rate, here there are some examples of his lovely playing. He is unceasingly inventive, exhibits a beautiful touch, organizes his solos intelligently—and his rhythm-section work is superb.
Burrell offers imaginative and well-sustained solos, his lines clean and flowing, and he gets a pretty sound from his instrument. On “Born,” he accompanies Coltrane nicely.
The rhythm section performs well. Chambers pushes the soloists relentlessly, and his soloing on "Big Paul" exhibits continuous forcefulness.
All in all, one of the best examples of jazz in the late ’50s. —Harvey Pekar
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