Sonny Rollins Quartet
There are only five songs on this CD, but they’re songs no lover of great jazz saxophone should be without. The title song alone makes this a release worth owning. The others are the icing on the cake and the sweet cherries on top. Each time one listens to this set, it yields new surprises and delights. Wonderful!
Originally recorded by Rudy Van Gelder on May 24, 1956 and remastered by him in 2006, these songs feature not only Sonny Rollins on tenor saxophone but a classy jazz combo that included John Coltrane on tenor saxophone (on the title track only), Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. In combination, the sounds they put out are some of the finest jazz of the last century.
“Tenor Madness” features two of the greatest jazz tenor sax players, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, wailing together and separately within a marvelous ambience of solid drums and bass with grooving piano. This madness goes on for a thoroughly enjoyable twelve minutes plus. It’s a not to be missed performance.
Starting with the thrum of Chambers’ bass until Rollin’s rolls in mellow on sax, “When Your Lover Has Gone” is a mellow lounge rendition. It makes a sweet listen that would be ideal backgound for a quiet conversation between lovers, yet it’s up-tempo enough to allow for dancing just close enough. The instrumental mix is sweet and lovely.
“Paul’s Pal” has more of a swing to it, bringing the drive of Rollin’s tenor sax up front and dancing across the soundscape. Test yourself. Do you really think you can sit still while listening to this one? It’s unlikely. This song is sure to bring the dancers to the floor. There’s a very nice bass solo in the middle that showcases the talent of Paul Chambers.
The song “My Reverie” has always had a certain subtlety built in, like an expensive mattress that softly embraces you as you settle into it. This arrangement takes that soft comfort to its limits, creating a comfortable ambience ideal to back a candlelit dinner for two.
“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is like a party. At times it feels like relaxed conversation over cocktails and at other times it’s wild and rollicking. It escalates and pulls back, swings slow and powerful then moves up-tempo and rocks the room. There are bits and pieces of other songs in the solos, and every player gets a solo or two, including some great bits by Jones on drums and Garland on piano. This is an ideal song to end this set.
Of historical interest, this album’s jewel-case insert includes Ira Gitler’s original liner notes from the 1956 release ((Prestige 7047), Mark Gardner’s new liner notes for the 1969 reissue (Prestige 7657), and interesting new notes written by Gitler for this release. These notes give the reader a compelling historical and contemporary perspective on Sonny Rollins and the music he created.
At just over 35 minutes, this is a short set in today’s CD market but it out-values many releases twice the length. This is classic Fifties jazz at the top of its form, played by masters of the craft at the top of their careers. Any collector who doesn’t have this release already should definitely add it as soon as possible.
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