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Sonny Rollins: Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959

Chris M. Slawecki By

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The quantity and quality of music released in 1959 have led many to call it a watershed year for modern jazz. Even just cursory research calls up such landmark titles as John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic), Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic), Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia) and Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (Columbia). Recorded live at Radio Station Zurich that March, Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quintet: Zurich 1959 hoists another pillar in 1959's monument to recorded jazz excellence.

Rollins' set with drummer Pete La Roca and bassist Henry Grimes digs deep into the earthy blue, almost gutbucket, sounds buried in Rollins' tenor. They attack the opening "I Remember You" like roving bandits, then Rollins joyously honks out the coda each time they circle through the verse to "I've Told Every Little Star." Rollins' unaccompanied introduction keeps the melody in the foreground even while his stylish improvisations turn "It Could Happen to You" into something new and his own.

Recorded so well that you can hear Rollins count off, "One, two—one, two, three" to start, this hot romp through "Oleo" further supports the notion that Rollins named one of his most famous (and most slippery) compositions after the oil- based margarine of the same name, and he trades such explosive closing fours with La Roca that the saxophone and drums sound determined to blow the other off the bandstand.

Any opportunity to hear Horace Silver perform with tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and trumpeter Blue Mitchell is a good one; from the first strains of the opening "Nica's Dream" through the groovy ending of "Señor Blues," their voices sing in perfect be-bop, blue harmony. This good opportunity is made even better by their program of classic Silver and supple rhythmic support from bassist Gene Taylor and especially drummer Louis Hayes, who takes every opportunity to shift in between jazz and Latin gears.

"Cool Eyes" flutters on the warm wings of Mitchell's tight grooving, and although some of Silver's contemporaries such as Red Garland or Cedar Walton had powerful rhythmic feels and could even sometimes slip into a Latin bag, the leader's sparkling cascade of individual notes, clinking and tinkling like ice cubes in a highball glass, are unmistakably Horace Silver.

"Ecaroh" and the concluding "Señor Blues" shimmy with the "Spanish tinge" that Silver enjoyed playing most of all. The rhythm section spreads out "Ecaroh" like a warm Latin blanket beneath the cool shade of the swinging bop quintet horns, and the leader's famous introduction to "Señor Blues" leaps and bounds like something Joe Zawinul would have played to open up a blue gospel moan for Cannonball Adderley. Mitchell's first few solo notes, and Silver's piano solo, slice through "Señor Blues" like a razor-sharp switchblade, and you can still feel their magic long after they fade into silence.

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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