Sonny Rollins – Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recording – Resonance Records

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Sonny Rollins – Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recording – Limited Edition 180-gram 4-LP box set and 22-page full-sized booklet Record Store Day [4/20/2024], *****:

(Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone; Henry Grimes – double bass; Kenny Clarke – drums; Pete La Roca – drums; Joe Harris – drums)

Resonance Records has revitalized the unearthing of “hidden” recordings. Many of the artists whose live performances have been reissued are bona fide legends. One of these stalwarts is Sonny Rollins. Considered to be one of the all-time greats on tenor saxophone, his influence on jazz music was significant, including composition and improvisational play. A new 4-LP limited edition Record Store Day Release Sonny Rollins Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings captures the saxophonist at his peak. While these recordings had been previously been released as ‘grey” records, this re-mastered box set has sound restoration by Gorge Klabin/Fran Gala and LP mastering by Bernie Grundman. The unusual trio includes double bassist Henry Grimes and three different drummers. 

Side A opens with a rousing version of “St. Thomas”. This calypso-infused jam has impeccable timing and Rollins is front and center for the entire cut. There is a transition to medium swing bop. A racing bass and gritty drum breaks counter the saxophone exchanges. “There Will Never Be Another You” distills the melodic essence of the song with improvisational gravitas and flair. Again, the interaction of the saxophonist and the rhythm section (including a call and response) is vibrant and fulsome. Rollins’ soulful tonality and bluesy melancholy permeate “Stay As Sweet As You Are”. He combines a unique intermingling of muscular shading and winsome articulation. The side concludes with the first of four versions of “I’ve Told Every Little Star” which is energetic and freewheeling. Each track is excellent. “How High The Moon” is breezy and cool with fluid trio interaction (including a nimble double bass solo and catchy drum breaks). Rollins is magnetic, immersed in the music. One of the many Rollins’ standards (“Oleo”) has some bebop, looser dynamics with free-form tenor solos. Another original, “Paul’s Pal” is jaunty and is arranged as a lengthy improvisational statement. 

After a brief interview (Side C), the trio takes on Duke Ellington’s classic, “It Don’t Mean A Thing”. Rollins injects unbridled passion into his lead, with punctuated intonation. Even in a small ensemble, the sound feels big. There is a reprise performance of “Paul’s Pal”. A certain highlight is a near-solo cover of “Love Letters”. Rollins’ instrumental dexterity and musical vision is undeniable. He is capable of shifting from bluesy resonance to jazzy inflection in a seamless fashion with emotion. “I Remember You” is a pop song, but Rollins turns it into a complex, jazz piece. He weaves through the melody with style and finesse with the rhythm section remains in lockstep. The exchanges with the drummer are visceral. In a change of pace, “It Could Happen To To You” (a solo effort) embraces late night melancholy with hypnotic lower-register notation. The trio roars back on “Oleo” with fierce tempo. Side E begins with another rapid-paced version of a pop number, “I Want To Be Happy”. On the title track, his approach is sinewy with lyrical expression. The final three sides (all with drummer Kenny Clark) each have one extended cut, which is more of Rollins’ mastery. “Woody ’N’ You” is indicative of original live jazz. He transforms Gershwin’s “But Not For Me” into a jazzy workshop with some atonal manipulation and fervor. 

This vinyl set from Resonance Records is an historical document. The restored sound and LP mastering is superior with limited distortion and pristine tonality. Protective disc sleeves and an incisive liner note booklet (with interviews of many tenor saxophonists) are a nice touch. It is available on CD and digital download.

Highly recommended!

—Robbie Gerson

Sonny Rollins – Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recording

Side A: St. Thomas; There Will Never Be Another You; Stay As Sweet As You Are; I’ve Told Every Little Star
Side B: How High The Moon; Oleo; Paul’s Pal

Side C: Sonny Rollins Interview; It Don’t Mean A Thing; Paul’s Pal #2; Love Letters
Side D: I Remember You; I’ve Told Every Little Star; It Could Happen To You; Oleo; Will You Still Be Mine?; I’ve Told Every Little Star

Side E: I Want To Be Happy; A Weaver Of Dreams; It Don’t Mean A Thing; Cocktails For Two; I’ve Told Every Little Star; I Want To Be Happy #2
Side F: Woody ’N’ You

Side G: But Not For Me
Side H: Lady Bird.    

More information through Record Store Day

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Album Cover for Sonny Rollins - Freedom Weaver

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