How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
There was once a time when Sonny Rollins frequently battled Stan Getz for the top spot in the critics’ polls. The two are more alike than one might think; like Getz, Rollins possesses a flawless technique that manages to be both bold and unassuming and frequently does his best work in relatively straightforward settings. This session was recorded at a time when Rollins was bouncing between labels, but still doing his most remarkable work for Prestige.
The opener marks the first experiments with the pianoless trio that Rollins pioneered; another track, “The Last Time I Saw Paris”, is his first unaccompanied solo on record. The other selections feature the recorded debut of Sonny Clark, a gifted pianist who has recently enjoyed quite a bit of posthumous acclaim due to several Blue Note reissues. However, this is clearly Rollins’ show and, like his other recordings from the time, all the sidemen (Clark included) seem like hired guns rather than important contributors. Rollins as always displays a knack for turning unorthodox tunes into unlikely vehicles for improvisation, as the gentle bounce of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie” and the loping Carribean funk of “Mangoes” attest.
Rollins later struggled to find an appropriate forum for his talents when up-and-comers had built upon his advances, but this record clearly shows an important figure at the top of his game.
Track Listing: The Last Time I Saw Paris, Just in Time, Toot, Toot, Tootsie, What Is There To Say?, Dearly Beloved, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Cutie, It Could Happen To You, Mangoes, Funky Hotel Blues.
Personnel: Sonny Rollins-tenor saxophone; Sonny Clark-piano; Percy Heath, Paul Chambers-bass; Roy Haynes-drums.