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Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quintet: Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959

Dan Bilawsky By

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To some extent, the concept of glory days equates to fiction based on romanticized truth. When you talk to those who walked the walk at any seemingly important time, you learn that very quickly. Many of them would likely say that there's no time like the present, and the truth is that there's great music and history to be gleaned from any era and area if you know where to look. But then again, you can't argue with the facts and the brilliant sounds that defined an era and continue to influence generation after generation of listeners and musicians; some moments simply matter more than others, and 1959 is certainly one of those landmark points in time for jazz.

Many an important sound and concept was codified and captured in the grooves of records that arrived in that watershed jazz year—Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959), Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um (Columbia, 1959), John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959), Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic, 1959), and Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia, 1959), to name but a few—and the music was moving toward exciting and divergent paths. It was a time when anything and everything seemed possible. Jazz giants and heroes-to-be roamed the earth, creating musical manna of all varieties that would feed the masses for ages. Saying these things isn't viewing the past through rose-colored glasses or placing 1959 on a jazz pedestal. It's simply the truth. Even now, nearly six decades later, new finds like this continue to bear out the importance of what was happening then.

The music put forth here isn't revolutionary and it's obviously not of the same stature as those aforementioned landmarks. That probably doesn't even need to be said. It is, however, a solid chunk of jazz gold that serves as a shining example of what two of jazz's key figures were up to when the music was on the cusp of a great splintering. Back in that year of years, pianist Horace Silver was in the midst of a history-making stint at Blue Note Records, churning out one hard bop gem after another; Sonny Rollins, about to take the first of his famous sabbaticals, had delivered two classics of his own just one year prior—the underappreciated Freedom Suite (Prestige, 1958) and the universally acknowledged A Night At The Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1958). Both men were in fine musical form then, ready to take Europe by storm in the early part of the year. On March 5, 1959, Rollins and Silver, with their respective bands in tow, arrived at Radio Studio Zurich and recorded these tracks.

Rollins, working with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Pete La Roca in a piano-less trio that echoed the vibe of those format-defining Village Vanguard recordings, sounds positively giddy at times. He glides over the controlled swing of "I Remember You," brings jocularity to the fore on "I've Told Every Little Star," cooks in high gear on "Oleo," and delivers fluttery gestures and ebullient advances on "Will You Still Be Mine?" He only dims the lights on one occasion—a beautiful "It Could Happen To You" that opens on nearly two minutes of solo Sonny—and that mellowing of moods is warranted, serving as the perfect mid-set change of pace. La Roca shines throughout, whether simply laying the foundations or trading fours with Rollins, and Grimes manages to impress with his supportive stands, solo work, and steady-as-they-go walking.

Silver's set consists of a handful of originals that highlight his compositional mastery involving catchy lines while leaving plenty of blowing space for the members of his quintet. The band opens with "Nica's Dream," the pianist's well-known tribute to "The Jazz Baroness"—Pannonica de Koenigswarter. Then it's off to the jaunty bop of "Cool Eyes," where Junior Cook's cool-voiced tenor stands in contrast to Blue Mitchell's outspoken trumpet; on to "Shirl," which serves both as a breather and an opportunity to hear Silver daydreaming; and off to "Ecaroh," which moves along with spirit. The program then comes to its conclusion with a hip adieu in the form of "Señor Blues." It's a steamy send-off that brings some heat without ever approaching the boiling point.

The sound quality here is excellent—a step above some of the recent releases in the Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series—and the music is absolutely priceless. Votaries of Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver can thank their lucky stars for this one.

Track Listing: I Remember You; I've Told Every Little Star; It Could Happen To You; Oleo; Will You Still Be Mine?; Nica's Dream; Cool Eyes; Shirl; Ecaroh; Señor Blues.

Personnel: Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone (1-5); Henry Grimes: bass (1-5); Pete La Roca: drums (1-5); Horace Silver: piano (6-10); Blue Mitchell: trumpet (6-10); Junior Cook: tenor saxophone (6-10); Gene Taylor: bass; Louis Hayes: drums.

Title: Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959 | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: TCB Music

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