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Sonny Rollins: The Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years (2005)

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Sonny Rollins: The Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Recorded in 1962-64, Sonny Rollins' RCA sessions encompassed six LPs and several tracks for a three-artist sampler album. This two-CD set, containing material selected from The Bridge, What's New?, Our Man in Jazz, Sonny Meets Hawk!, Now's the Time, The Standard Sonny Rollins, and 3 in Jazz, has been released to honor the jazz giant, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

Rollins was active with the forefathers of bebop from 1948 on. In '49, he started working with Miles Davis and recorded several outstanding albums with the trumpeter. By 1957, he was leading his own bands. But Rollins withdrew from public performance in August, 1959 and decided to put in some serious woodshedding for two years while searching for a freer form of expression. When he emerged from that sabbatical, it was apparent that the saxophonist had retained his original enthusiasm but moved forward musically. The evidence lies in this Essential package.

Rollins incorporates a light Caribbean flavor into much of his work. He likes to start with a familiar song, such as "I've Got Rhythm" or a recent Broadway piece, and explore it from all angles. His analyses include extended solo blowing as well as partnering. With Jim Hall, he forges a modern sound unlike anything being pursued elsewhere in jazz. With Candido Camero, he converses with a natural aplomb. With Don Cherry, he picks up a little outré dissonance, and together they stir the pot with their unique textural differences. With Coleman Hawkins and Paul Bley, he settles in comfortably with the jazz tradition while stretching his wings, as befits an explorer of his magnitude. Rollins has never stopped looking for new and better ways to express his ideas.

With Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, he draws a bulls-eye on mainstream jazz and hits it hard with incredible accuracy. Rollins improvises with the virtuosity of one who has dedicated his life to finding a way to get all those notes to fit. They always do. The saxophonist combines intense improvisation with relaxed melodies in a perfect balance of creative passion.

Track Listing: CD1: The Bridge; God Bless the Child; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; Don't Stop the Carnival; If Ever I Would Leave You; Jungoso; Doxy. CD2: There Will Never Be Another You; All the Things You Are; Lover Man; Just Friends; Now's the Time; St. Thomas; 'Round Midnight; Afternoon in Paris; Four; My Ship; Love Letters; Trav'lin' Light.

Personnel: Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins: tenor saxophone; Don Cherry: cornet; Jim Hall: guitar; Paul Bley, Herbie Hancock: piano; Bob Cranshaw, Henry Grimes, Ron Carter, Teddy Smith, David Izenson: bass; Roy McCurdy, Billy Higgins, Mickey Roker, Stu Martin, Ben Riley, Harry T. Saunders: drums; Candido Camero: congas; Dennis Charles, Frank Charles, Willie Rodriguez: percussion; H. Roberts, M. Stewart, C. Spencer, M. Burton, N. Wright, W. Glover: background vocals.

Record Label: Legacy Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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