The album was also the first to quite clearly mark Coltrane's change from bebop to free- and modal jazz, which was slowly becoming apparent in some of his previous releases. It introduces complex harmonic reworkings of such jazz standards as "My Favorite Things" and "But Not for Me". Additionally, at a time when the soprano saxophone was little used in jazz, it demonstrated Coltrane's further investigation of the instrument's capabilities.
The standard "Summertime" is notable for its upbeat, searching feel, a demonstration of Coltrane's 'sheets of sound', a stark antithesis to Miles Davis's melancholy, lyrical version on Porgy and Bess, and makes use of offbeat pedal points and augmented chords. "But Not For Me" is reharmonised using the famous Coltrane changes, and features an extended coda over a repeated ii-V-I-vi progression.
The title track is a modal rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. The melody is heard numerous times throughout the almost 14-minute version, and instead of having a solo over the written chord changes, both Tyner and Coltrane taking extended solos over vamps of the two tonic chords, E minor and E major. Tyner's solo is famous for being extremely chordal and rhythmic, as opposed to developing melodies. In the documentary The World According to John Coltrane, narrator Ed Wheeler remarks: "In 1960, Coltrane left Miles [Davis] and formed his own quartet to further explore modal playing, freer directions, and a growing Indian influence. They transformed "My Favorite Things", the cheerful populist song from 'The Sound of Music,' into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance. The recording was a hit and became Coltrane's most requested tune—and a bridge to broad public acceptance."
- "My Favorite Things" (Richard Rodgers) – 13:41
- "Everytime We Say Goodbye" (Cole Porter) – 5:39
- "Summertime" (George Gershwin) – 11:31
- "But Not for Me" (Gershwin) – 9:34
Some CD editions list two additional pieces:
- "My Favorite Things, Part 1" (single version) – 2:45
- "My Favorite Things, Part 2" (single version) – 3:02
- Track 1 recorded on October 21, 1960; track 3 on October 24, 1960; tracks 2 and 4 recorded on October 26, 1960.