Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins on Impulse – Impulse/ Analogue Productions stereo-only SACD CIPJ 91 SA – 1965, 34:40 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ***:
(Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Ray Bryant, piano; Walter Booker, bass; Mickey Roker, drums)
Sonny Rollins was going through changes in 1965-1966. He recorded three albums for Impulse Records, and then took a six year sabbatical before coming out in 1972 with (literally) his “Next Album.” Rollins has always been a restless giant on the tenor, and on this just-released SACD reissue of Sonny Rollins on Impulse, he turns six standards inside out. The melody is not ignored, but Sonny is content to let pianist Ray Bryant carry the melody duties while he concentrates on shifting rhythms and dynamics.
“On Green Dolphin Street” is done restlessly. Notes are slurred, as Rollins darts in and out as Bryant plays the more conventional foil to Sonny’s attack. Rollins growls while Walter Booker gets an inventive bass solo. Rollins is then content to play a backing role as the bass and drums emote.
“Everything Happens to Me” at 11:10, is by far the longest track. Sonny finds a line that he explores throughout the track, and he is at his most lyrical here, digging into some approachable blues, still with a prowling edginess. Ray Bryant is the star here, to me, with a series of introspective lyrical solo choruses.
“Hold ‘Em Joe” shows Rollins’ early fascination with calypso, that continues today. Rollins’ innate swing on this genre remains steadfast, and many times is the most audience friendly music during his concerts. Bryant shows a knack for island music as well on this track.
“Three Little Words” finds Rollins again exploring rapid fire dynamics with slurred phrasing spitting out notes with urgency. Clearly Sonny is seemingly restless on an exploration from which he would re-emerge six years later having dealt with his musical demons and ready to move in new directions.
Sonic-wise, I felt that this Analogue Production SACD issue was not on the same level as others in their catalog. No strong complaints, however, I did not find the acoustics to have the exceptional clarity that one would expect to find on their usually sublime jazz SACD re-issues. (The Shelly Manne SACD release, ‘2 3 4 ’ more clearly met that standard…)
TrackList: On Green Dolphin Street, Everything Happens to Me, Hold ‘Em Joe, Blue Room, Three Little Words
— Jeff Krow