Sonny Rollins – Sonny, Please – Doxy Records

by | Nov 20, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Sonny Rollins – Sonny, Please – Doxy Records DR9730-2, 54:24 ****:

(Rollins, tenor sax; Clifton Anderson, trombone; Bobby Broom, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, electric & acoustic bass; Steve Jordan, drums; Kimati Dinizulu, percussion)

Rollins shines brilliantly in his first studio recording in five years. The CD is released on his own label, named after his own tune which he famously recorded with Miles Davis in 1954. He had been with Milestone (now part of Fantasy) for 35 years, but after the death of his wife in 2004 Rollins saw that the business was going in the direction of artist-owned labels, so started his own. The timing is excellent, since the Jazz Journalists Association has named Rollins 2006 Artist of the Year and Best Tenor Saxophonist.

Rollins’ parents were natives of the Virgin Islands. By the time he was out of high school he was already playing with people such as Bud Powell and Fats Navarro. His first record date was with Prestige. He is known for his legendary breaks from music performing. One was when he wanted to better himself, practice and get out of  environments full of smoke, alcohol and drugs. He would practice on the Williamsburg Bridge at night. Another was spent studying Zen Buddhism in Japan and yoga in India. While at the ashram he even considered leaving music totally to pursue the spiritual life, but his guru convinced him that music WAS his spiritual life.

Sonny, Please was recorded after the band had just returned from a sold-out tour of Japan and Rollins felt the group had really come together after the string of performances. The seven tracks are a mix of originals by Rollins – Sonny, Please; Nishi; Remembering Tommy; Park Palace Parade – plus three old standards.  The standard receiving the most attention lengthwise is the Noel Coward vehicle former theme for the oldtime radio series Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.  Its ten minutes is distinguished by constantly flowing variations on the ballad from Rollins, including creative exchanges with guitarist Broom, bassist Cranshaw and finally trombonist Anderson – who also served as the album’s producer.

Rollins has not been one of my personal favorite sax men because to my ears he lacked the finesse of phrasing of people such as Stan Getz and Paul Desmond. But on this session he seems to be playing with more preciseness and clarity than I have heard before, and the duets with sax and trombone are unusually attractive. The overall feeling is one of exhilaration. Recorded quality is the best too.

Tracklist: Sonny, Please; Someday I’ll Find You; Nishi; Stairway to the Stars; Remembering Tommy, Serenade; Park Palace Parade

– John Henry

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