Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series 40 – Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quintet, Zurich 1959 – The Montreux Jazz Label TCB 02402, 58:51 ****:

The quintessence of small group modern jazz. 

(Sonny Rollins Trio : Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone; Henry Grimes – bass; Pete La Roca – drums – Horace Sliver Quintet: Horace Silver – piano; Blue Mitchell – trumpet; Junior Cook – tenor saxophone; Gene Taylor – bass; Louis Hayes – drums) 

A small “contretemps” has erupted relating to the issue of Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series 40 – Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quintet, Zurich 1959. In a posting on the blog Jazz Wax on December 10, 2016 Sonny Rollins, through his publicist Terri Hinte, claims this album is a “bootleg”. Rollins states that no agreement was made for release of the record and that he has not been remunerated.

While not doubting Rollins’ claim, it would seem to run counter to what Yvan Ischer, Producer of the JazzZ-RTS Series, states in the liner notes of this release. He writes that “at a time when many people publish images and sounds without worrying about artist rights, we wished to establish an indisputable standard with our first publication by negotiating with…” and he goes on to detail the efforts made with Quincy Jones for the label’s initial release. He then lists many the other artists with whom “rights” were negotiated, although there is no specific mention of doing so with Rollins.

In any event, this release is welcomed on several fronts. For the Sonny Rollins Trio, this March 5,1959 session would have been close to the final recording that Rollins made before his self-imposed retreat from music until 1962.  The trio format used by Rollins began in 1957 with the recording Way Out West where he was accompanied by Ray Brown and Shelly Manne and this trio configuration continued off and on with several personnel iterations until 1959.

The tunes chosen for this session, for the most part came, from the American Songbook with one Rollins original “Oleo” thrown in for good measure. Starting with “I Remember You”, the saxophonist demonstrates forceful confidence as well as imagination. “I’ve Told Every Little Star” is done at a bristling tempo with brio. Drummer La Roca has several drum breaks that keep up the focus of the tune, and bassist Grimes pitches in with a deep-tone solo effort.

On “Oleo”, the trio picks up the pace to a double-time mode, as Rollins delivers all manner of pulsating and harmonic intricacies with Grimes and La Roca providing support that is always on the mark. The closer is “Will You Still Be Mine?” which bristles with perception and compelling  verve. Whatever malaise that may have been bothering Rollins, as he decided his career direction, was certainly not apparent in this outing.

The Horace Silver Quintet that is presented in this release is the same formation that appeared on  two classic releases namely Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away. The five tune set is made up entirely of Silver well-known originals, and played with the conception and vitality with which the band was identified. The opener is “Nica’s Dream” a Latin based theme but filled with the funky groove that was associated with his writing. His piano style was unmistakable with succinct single-note lines. The front line of trumpeter Blue Mitchell and tenor man Junior Cook had a tight interplay and kept their solo excursions in an organized frame.

“Shirl” is a trio number with Silver, Taylor and Hayes. While done in ballad tempo it is not a ballad in the conventional sense. It is an introspective rumination with all the eloquent control associated with the pianist. The final two tracks on this outing are both statement compositions. Firstly the name “Ecaroh” is a semi-palindrome ( Horace)  and is one of Silver’s most complex pieces. Additionally he has recorded it only on two previous occasions. The first recording was for Blue Note in 1953 on Introducing The Horace Silver Trio and  the second in 1956 for Columbia on The Jazz Messengers.This is a stellar rendition with Silver’s silvery approach in full bloom, as the band covers all the structure of harmony and shape with self-assurance. “Señor Blues” was the first Silver composition that brought him broader attention. With its intricate rhythms driven by Silver’s piano, the front line sets the theme with some unison playing. Both Cook and Mitchell take extensive solos in the number’s minor key. Silver’s own solo is perfect example of economy and simplicity.

In the accompanying liner notes, Mike Hennessey describes this album as “the quintessence of small group modern jazz”.

TrackList: Sonny Rollins Trio : I Remember You; I’ve Told Every Little Star; It Could Happen To You; Oleo; Will You Still Be Mine?; Horace Silver Quintet: Nica’s Dream; Cool Eyes; Shirl; Ecaroh; Señor Blues

—Pierre Giroux