Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans: Icons In Action

Doug Collette BY

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As icons of contemporary jazz, saxophonist Sonny Rollins and pianist Bill Evans deserve the carefully-researched and fastidiously-annotated packages Resonance Records has created in the form of Rollins In Holland and Live At Ronnie Scott's. The curators and producers for the label aim to formulate releases in line with each man's exacting approach, so while it is true many such vault titles are already available in the marketplace, it's fairly safe to say few are as rare or thorough as this pair. Each double compact disc set overflows with historical information in the form of scholarly notes on the sequences of events that led to each respective release, but also offer insightful reflection from some of the artists themselves: as with the essays like that of Newk's biographer Aidan Levy, the probing interviews compare favorably to the music itself. The combination of prose with a panoply of photos should thereby delight and edify aficionados as well as the curious novice music lover, ratifying how and why Evans and Rollins earned their deservedly hallowed reputations—as if that was necessary.

Sonny Rollins
Rollins In Holland
Resonance Records

On Rollins In Holland, the saxophone colossus came wielding a different tenor horn, just months before his now mythic hiatus, to record live and in studio with two musicians he'd never met, a fortuitous set of circumstances is documented on two compact discs and recounted in the multiple essays in the hundred (!)-page booklet. While it's not altogether surprising to hear what is usually the lead instrument reverberates throughout each venue, the bass and drums of respectively Ruud Jacobs and Han Bennink are only slightly less prominent and certainly no less free-wheeling in their approach. The purity of the threesome's interactions remains constant: the lack of familiarity with each other actually works in their favor, especially insofar as none of the trio is self-conscious in the least when soloing or adopting a supporting role. The resulting flow of spontaneity begets new ideas at virtually every turn, most all of which these musicians maximize in a turn of phrase on saxophone, bass and drums, the level of constant interaction readily discernible thanks to the meticulous sound forged here.

Bill Evans
Live At Ronnie Scott's
Resonance Records

As revealed during a convivial conversation with none other than Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette was a member of Bill Evans' trio for only six months, including the four-week run at the legendary London jazz venue Ronnie Scott's from which come the recordings in this set. Captured by that master drummer himself, these live documents reveal the bond he established with the pianist and long-time bassist Eddie Gomez, a chemistry in which melody and rhythm remained almost equally prominent. It may well be an established maxim that the best musicians elevate the performance of those around them, but in the case of these (near-) geniuses on their respective instruments, the level of inspiration is breathtaking: the insistence in DeJohnette's playing finds an ideal complement in the deference Gomez displays, the combination of which provides an ideal backdrop for Evans' own mellifluous tone. And while the sound quality here isn't so deep as that of its companion piece, in a very real way, those trebly timbres suit the light touch(es) in action on these two CDs.

Tracks and Personnel

Rollins In Holland

Tracks: CD 1: Blue Room; Four; Love Walked In; Tune Up; Sonnymoon For Two; Love Walked In; Three Little Words. CD 2: They Can't Take That Away From Me/ Sonnymoon For Two; On Green Dolphin Street/ There Will Never Be Another You; Love Walked In; Four.

Personnel: Sonny Rollins; tenor saxophone; Ruud Jacobs: bass; Han Bennink: drums.

Live At Ronnie Scott's

Tracks: CD 1: A Sleepin' Bee; You're Gonna Hear From Me (Version 1); Yesterdays; Turn Out The Stars; My Man's Gone Now; Emily (Version 1); Spring Is Here; Embraceable You; For Heaven's Sake; Someday My Prince Will Come. CD 2: Quiet Now; Round Midnight; Stella By Starlight; Alfie; You're Gonna Hear From Me (Version 2); Very Early; Emily (Version 2); Waltz For Debby; Autumn Leaves; Nardis.

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Eddie Gomez: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

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