Sonny Rollins needs no introduction. Nor, most likely, does The Sound of Sonny, a classic 1957 quartet disc with pianist Sonny Clark, trapsman Roy Haynes and alternating bassists Percy Heath and Paul Chambers. Recorded the same year that Rollins topped the DownBeat balloting for "New Star , it is, however, a somewhat atypical disc for the tenorist, both of the period and in his oeuvre. On it his first as a leader for Riverside Rollins concentrates on standards and keeps the tunes to bite-size lengths: only the bonus track on this Keepnews Collection reissue hits six minutes and the opener, Hammerstein-Kern's "The Last Time I Saw Paris done as a tenor-drums duet, clocks in at under three. The brevity of the pieces hints at a particular kind of discipline and it's reflected in the leader's performance; though the trademark Rollins broken-time signature is there bars? measures? what are they? he sounds uncharacteristically restrained throughout. It's a pleasant change, but there's a brusqueness here that's a little unsettling; one feels Rollins had a lot more to say and just chose not to say it now. Still, if somewhat constrained, Rollins swings nicely through the record, improvising beautifully on Cole-Styne's "Just in Time , giving a loving reading of the Jolson classic "Toot, Toot, Tootsie , turning Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye into a moaning, slurred up-tempo stroll and, in the disc's gorgeous, bittersweet keeper, going it alone on Burke and Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You . As for the aforementioned bonus track, it's a Rollins original, "Funky Hotel Blues . In his new liner notes, producer Orrin Keepnews makes no mention of it, but the tune seems to be just what you'd surmise: an improvised blues which has shown up on previous compilations that adds little to the Rollins catalogue (though it's always fun to hear him quote "Camptown Ladies ). And, as one would expect, the rhythm section is flawless: Haynes, especially making the most of the surprising space left by the usually verbose Rollins shines.
We Three, a November 1958 trio date, is credited equally to Roy Haynes, Paul Chambers and Memphis-born pianist Phineas Newborn, but Haynes is widely perceived as the disc's defacto leader. (That fall, Newborn and Chambers turned up frequently to gig Mondays at the Five Spot, where Haynes held down the night.) The music bears this out Haynes is front and center, both in the structure of the numbers and in the mix, his staccato runs, lightning fills and rock-solid hi-hat present throughout. It's a lovely, bluesy, laid-back record, however, with the too-often flashy Newborn a technical powerhouse of the Art Tatum-Oscar Peterson school playing in a wonderfully gentle, pared-down style and Chambers providing his always uncanny, sympathetic support. These guys obviously got to know each other well at the Five Spot and little goes unnoticed. Best, perhaps, is the lengthiest tune on the disc, the 11-minute-plus "After Hours , on which all three break off into different time signatures but the throughline is never in doubt. The reissue part of the Rudy Van Gelder series offers little new: no bonus tracks and not much in the way of additional liner notes. But the remastering is fine (if a little tinny), the trio is a rare one and music is first-rate. Pick it up.
Tracks and Personnel
The Sound of Sonny
Tracks: The Last Time I Saw Paris; Just in Time; Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye; What Is There to Say?; Dearly Beloved; Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye; Cutie; It Could Happen to You; Mangos; Funky Hotel Blues (Bonus track).
Personnel: Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Sonny Clark: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Paul Chambers: bass; Roy Haynes: drums.
Tracks: Reflection; Sugar Ray; Solitaire; After Hours; Sneakin' Around; Tadd's Delight.
Personnel: Roy Haynes: drums; Phineas Newborn: piano; Paul Chambers: bass.