(Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Sonny Clark, piano; Percy Heath & Paul Chambers alternating on doublebass; Roy Haynes, drums)
Another in the continuing series of reissues produced by longtime jazz specialist Orrin Keepnews, and enhanced with processing from the original analog tapes to 24-bit PCM. This was a 1957 session and prior to the introduction of the stereodisc the next year it was done only in mono, but that makes little difference here. This is a masterful Rollins session, recorded when he was just rising to the very top of his field, and frankly I much prefer the more straightforward tonal playing here than the free-jazz-influenced style which Sonny often slips into today. Just call me a moldy fig.
The ten tunes here are delivered in a calm and collected fashion which seems part and parcel of Sonny’s personality which I got to experience firsthand recently when he did a long interview at the Portland Jazz Festival. Keepnews feels that Rollins shared a gentle calm attitude with Thelonious Monk – who Rollins had intimated was more his guru than his teacher.
I had forgotten about Sonny Clark; he’s a fine pianist and perfect foil for Rollins. On The Last Time I Saw Paris he sits it out, providing an interesting introduction to the set as the first track. Then near the end, on Alec Wilder’s It Could Happen to You the entire band sits it out and Sonny does a touching unaccompanied tenor solo. Most of the tracks are fairly short, with the bonus track that didn’t fit on the original LP being the longest at six minutes. The real sound of Sonny is front and center and to my ears his sax sounds richer and smoother than what I’m hearing from him today – though that’s not to say he’s any the less in charge of abilities after all these years. Keepnews’ notes about working with Sonny over the years are good reading in the note booklet.
TrackList: The Last Time I Saw Paris; Just in Time; Toot, Toot, Tootsie!; What Is There to Say?; Dearly Beloved; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye; Cutie; It Could Happen to You; Mangoes; Funky Hotel Blues (bonus track)
– John Henry