Thursday, August 09, 2012

Sonny Rollins - The Very Best of Sonny Rollins (Concord, 2012)

This is an introductory album pulling together some of the high points of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' recordings from 1956-1958. Rollins is one of the true masters of jazz and the period represented here was one of his finest and whets the listeners’ appetite to delve deeper into his catalog. One of his most well known compositions leads off the album, “St. Thomas,” it is a classic joyful song that has become a jazz standard. Everything about this performance is special from the magisterial saxophone to the great drumming of Max Roach and generous and tasteful piano solo from Tommy Flanagan. The reading of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” comes from Rollins’ collaboration with the Modern Jazz Quartet. He plays thoughtful and patient ballad saxophone in a deeply lyrical fashion shaded by piano and vibes. “I’m An Old Cowhand” is from his great trio LP Way Out West. This is a fun performance with clip-clop drumming from Shelly Manne and an epic melodic solo from Rollins that is bursting with ideas. “His saxophone pours forth on “Someday I’ll Find You” chased by up-tempo bass and drums like a bird in flight. Saxophone and drums joust and parry in an exciting fashion. One of Sonny Rolins great strengths is the ability to take any song of any vintage and to craft a great improvisation from it. “There’s No Business Like Show Business” has a swinging quartet making the familiar show tune into something all its own. Rollins’ solo has a wealth of ideas buoyed by fast paced piano, bass and drums. “Tenor Madness” is a swinging and exciting up-tempo twin tenor saxophone duet with fellow legend John Coltrane. Not so much a saxophone battle as a conversation between two of the best musicians of the day. After a classy piano trio interlude, the saxophones take turns trading ideas with the drums before taking the song to a close. This was a solid introduction to some of Sonny Rollins finest work. While his large discography may be daunting to the jazz neophyte, this is an easily digestible collection that helps the listener make the acquaintance of one of the finest musicians in jazz. The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins - amazon.com

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