Sonny Rollins: The Freelance Years:The Complete Riverside & Contemporary Recordings

C. Andrew Hovan By

Sign in to view read count
In the collective media catalog that has been developed by Sonny Rollins over the past many decades there is much that is of tangible worth, while only his recordings of the past 15 years or so tend to be dispensable in the long run. Taken together as a group, first-rate Rollins would have to include his Prestige sessions, the RCA-Victor sides, and three dates apiece for both Blue Note and Impulse. Just after the aforementioned Prestige period and prior to the Blue Notes lie the performances assembled here together for the first time in The Freelance Years, a 5-CD boxed set which comes as Rollins gets ready to celebrate his 70th birthday later this year.

The Riverside Recordings

This set is made up of two parts, with the Riverside dates being of the earliest vintage, getting underway with tracks from the 1956 Thelonious Monk album Brilliant Corners. Of the other sessions that present Rollins as a sideman, you'll also find selections from trumpeter Kenny Dorham's Jazz Contrasts and Abbey Lincoln's That's Him, yet all three have one or two performances that don't include Rollins in the line-up and have thus not been included here.

Of the two Riverside collections under Rollins' leadership, clearly The Freedom Suite from 1958 is the most well known and critically-acclaimed. This lean trio affair with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Max Roach would foreshadow the type of extended piano-less offerings that would reach a peak in such later albums as East Broadway Rundown. Slightly less brave, but equally gratifying, The Sound of Sonny has much to recommend it, not the least being rare Riverside appearances from pianist Sonny Clark and drummer Roy Haynes. It should also be noted that this set contains three cuts only previously available on the1957 Period release Sonny Rollins Plays. These hard-to-find gems sport a superior line-up that includes trombonist Jimmy Cleveland and pianist Gil Coggins.

The Contemporary Recordings

Both of the albums Rollins did on the West Coast for Contemporary have become avowed classics, namely Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. The former is in a trio setting with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne and highlights Rollins' sly sense of humor on "I'm an Old Cowhand" and "Wagon Wheels," while the latter is a meeting of giants with Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Leroy Vinnegar, Victor Feldman, and Shelly Manne on hand. If you don't know these recordings then you're missing out on some of the better recorded jazz of the past 40 years.

A serviceable addition to the previous packaging of all of Rollins' Prestige sides, this shrewd pairing of Rollins' Riverside and Contemporary oeuvre was a sharp move on Fantasy's part and should serve as a perfect birthday gift for Sonny when he gets ready for the big seven-o come September.Collective


Collective Sonny Rollins- tenor saxophone; Abbey Lincoln- vocal; Ernie Henry- alto saxophone; Clark Terry, Kenny Dorham- trumpet; Jimmy Cleveland- trombone; Hank Jones, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Clark, Hampton Hawes, Wynton Kelly- piano; Barney Kessel- guitar; Victor Feldman- vibes; Paul Chambers, Percy Heath, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Leroy Vinnegar- bass; Roy Haynes, Shelly Manne, Max Roach-drums

Track Information:58 performances, including one previously unissued track

| Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read Pathways CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Landing CD/LP/Track Review Landing
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Words And Music CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Faces CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Day By Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day By Day
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Invention of Knowledge" CD/LP/Track Review Invention of Knowledge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 9, 2016
Read "Cosmic Adventure" CD/LP/Track Review Cosmic Adventure
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "The Catfish" CD/LP/Track Review The Catfish
by Chris Mosey
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction" CD/LP/Track Review Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Freedom is Space for the Spirit" CD/LP/Track Review Freedom is Space for the Spirit
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 2, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!