Monday, March 25, 2013

Sonny Rollins - Now's the Time (RCA, 1964)

Recorded from February through April of 1964, this album shows the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins revisiting his past with an album of bebop and hard-bop songs. Since Rollins came up in the late 40’s and the 1950’s it would be possible that he could coast through these well known compositions that he had undoubtedly played many times before. But he does nothing of the kind, blazing through the music in both trio and quartet format with a rotating cast of supporters including Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes and Ron Carter. The title track opens the album in fine fashion with a swinging medium tempo bass and drum foundation setting the stage for Rollins’ confident saxophone. “Blue ‘n’ Boogie” is a blasting trio recording with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Ron McCurdy on drums. Rollins and McCurdy lock in right away playing off each other at high speed before stepping aside for a bass solo. Sonny Rollins played in the legendary band Clifford Brown co-led with Max Roach and these memories lead to a short and referential reading of “I Remember Clifford.” The bebop anthem “52nd Street Theme” comes out blazing and taken even higher with Thad Jones sitting in on cornet and taking a massive solo. Sonny Rollins’ classic “St. Thomas” is revisited with the wonderful theme understated by tasteful drum accompaniment. McCurdy and Rollins are particularly locked in and the drum and saxophone interplay is the key to the success of this performance. The album is rounded out in classy fashion with a patient and lush version of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” and a briefly swinging take on “April in Paris.” They wrap up the album with a rousing rendition of “Four” with Sonny Rollins rolling over a roiling backdrop of bass and drums. This album came out near the end of Rollins' tenure with RCA records, he would be off to the Impulse label for a breif time before taking another sabbatical from recording in the late 1960’s. Despite its backward looking setlist, this album crackles with energy and Sonny Rollins sounds inspired and plays with extraordinary quality throughout. Now's The Time! -

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