Sonny Rollins – Rollins in Holland (The 1967 Studio & Live Recordings) – Resonance Records # HLP 9048 / # HCD 2048 – 3 LP (180 gm audiophile vinyl), or 2 CD (64:23 / 66:44) – 1967 – ****1/2
> Street dates: 3 LP (11/27/20), 2 CD (12/4/20)
(Sonny Rollins – tenor sax; Ruud Jacobs – acoustic bass; Han Bennink – drums)
1967 was a very consequential year for both jazz in America, as well as for the country as a whole. The long hot summer had over 150 riots, largely over racial tensions. Interest in jazz had diminished, as Rock music from both England (The Beatles and Rolling Stones), and the West Coast, took over the airwaves. The golden age of jazz under the Blue Note and Prestige labels, with an emphasis on hard bop, was winding down. Rock music was so prevalent that Janis Joplin headlined at the Monterey Jazz Festival that year.
Europe became a welcoming haven for African American jazz musicians, and many (i.e., Don Byas) permanently relocated there, and were greeted with open arms. Avant garde jazz was coming into its own both in Chicago and New York, creating a rift between fans of mainstream jazz, and the newer “more complicated” listening experience of free jazz artists like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. Radio programmers were left with the dilemma of figuring out where jazz was headed.
Artists like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins straddled both universes. Coltrane passed away that Summer, while Rollins, at age 36, and in his prime had taken an hiatus from recording. After the issuance of East Broadway Breakdownin 1966, he did not issue another album until the aptly titled, Next Album,came out in 1972. He took several years off in this period, spending time in India at an ashram.
However, in May of 1967, he made a brief tour of Holland, and played in a trio with Dutch musicians, Ruud Jacobs on bass, and Han Bennink, on drums. Their brief tour of The Netherlands has been captured on a thrilling new release, on Resonance Records, to be issued on Record Store Day, Nov. 27th, on three audiophile 180 gm LPs, followed by a 2 CD set on Dec. 4th.
These recordings were made either in a studio (four tracks on May 5th), for a TV recording (two tracks on May 5th), or live at an Academie in Arnhem (five tracks on May 3rd). Four tracks exceed fifteen minutes, and include medleys from Rollins songbook. Only the music from the Arnhem gig has ever been issued before, and that was from bootlegs that have been passed between Rollins fans worldwide. Here, on the Resonance release, the sound from the Arnhem performance is greatly improved.
This was a prime period for Sonny, as he describes it as “take-no-prisoners.” To call it vibrant, would be a gross understatement. It is two hours of blistering Rollins improvisations. Made up of all standards, as the trio had no time for rehearsal, his mates were both in their 20s, and prepared to ride the roller coaster of thrills that Sonny brought. His interaction with them has been described as “antagonistic cooperation,” and could also bring on an analogy of holding on for dear life, keeping ears open, and hands ready. Bassist, Ruud Jacobs, was more of a mainstream player, but his muscular tone fit right in with Sonny, who gave him lots of space to solo. Han Bennink, who became later noted for avant settings, has an assertiveness that spurred on Sonny. There is little cymbal comping here, and Bennink matches Rollins in intensity.
Sonny Rollins is known for never playing standards the same way twice, and although we hear several of the same songs over the two hours more than once, each familiar song is turned inside out, and is an unique listening experience. There is one constant though, and that is a “soulfulness” expressed with blues, and intoxicating West Indian Calypso motifs percolating through. He brings in sly quotes from familiar songs, whether it be “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “If I Were a Bell,” or Nat Adderley’s “Work Song.” His brain synapses are firing on all cylinders at all times. The extended tracks provide the time for improvisation that keep his audiences intrigued and fascinated.
The opening four tracks, recorded in a formal studio setting, are the most sedate. “Blue Room” is a blues with Jacobs providing a steady foundation, and a lovely Rollins lyrical rubato opening. The first performance of “Four” is given a bop treatment. Sonny trades four with Bennink, before going off like a rocket. On “Love Walked In”he struts with confidence, and Han matches Rollins’ ebullience.
At the Go Go Club, home of the Dutch TV show, “Jazz Met Jacobs” we hear two tracks, his own “Sonnymoon for Two,” and “Love Walked In.” The former begins as a funky blues before morphing into a free blowing affair. The latter brings in blues, Calypso ( a “St. Thomas” feel), and lets Ruud Jacobs stretch out with an extended solo.
The five tracks recorded live at Academie voor Beeldende Kunst in Arnhem, are where the fireworks really come out. There are two medleys, and three standards at twenty minutes plus. It’s a frenzied ear popping experience, a roller coaster going off the rails, but rescued by Sonny’s confidence in going out to left field, but returning to home plate just in time. In person, fifty years ago, it must have been quite the adrenaline rush.
Kudos must go out to the “jazz detective” at Resonance, Zev Feldman, for assisting in tracking down this treasure trove of prime Rollins, especially as putting on the finishing touches in releasing this material in pandemic times must have been a real chore. As usual, Resonance goes full deluxe in releasing this set with interviews with all members of the trio in a hefty booklet, complete with archival photos and comprehensive notes from Rollins’ biographer Aidan Levy, whose book will be forthcoming
soon from Hachette Books.
Sonny Rollins turned 90 this past September. Though no longer performing, his influence as a musician remains without question as one of the most significant jazz artists of all time. He can be his most ardent critic, and he describes this release with such fondness in his interview with Zev Feldman. That’s enough to make this a must purchase, whether in vinyl or on CD…
Blue Room (4:49)
Love Walked In (6:03)
Tune Up (6:56)
Sonnymoon for Two (8:13)
Love Walked In (9:30)
Three Little Words (22:25)
They Can’t Take That Away From Me/ Sonnymoon for Two (9:33)
On Green Dolphin Street/ There Will Never Be Another You (14:59)
Love Walked In (19:45)
For more information, visit Resonance Records website: