Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sonny Rollins: "The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins" (2012) CD Review

The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins contains ten tracks recorded between 1953 and 1958.  The playing is spirited, as you'd expect, and sometimes sexy (listen to "You Don't Know What Love Is"). And there is the stunningly, ridiculously fun "I've Found A New Baby" (that track should not be nearly as wonderful as it is). If you haven't listened to Sonny Rollins before, this collection provides the perfect introduction.

While most of the jazz greats from those years have since left us, Sonny Rollins is still around, and still touring. And hurrah for that.  Sonny Rollins will be 82 in September.

"St. Thomas"

The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins opens with "St. Thomas," an original composition, and possibly his most famous song. From the deceptively simple moments at the beginning of his solo, to some surprising lower notes later, this performance is completely delightful. And then there is a truly interesting and impressive drum solo by Max Roach, as well as some nice work on piano by Tommy Flanagan. This track originally appeared on Saxophone Colossus (1956).

"Pent-Up House"

"Pent-Up House" is also an original composition. This one features Clifford Brown on trumpet, providing some great, bright energy. When Sonny Rollins begins his solo, it has a certain sexiness, backed by George Morrow's great groove on bass. There are some moments in Richie Powell's lead on piano that made me laugh for joy. And there is another cool drum solo by Max Roach toward the end of the tune.

This track is from the 1956 album Plus 4.

"In A Sentimental Mood"

The earliest track in this collection, recorded in October of 1953, is a gorgeous rendition of Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood." This track is from Sonny Rollins With The Modern Jazz Quartet, and features a short lead section by Milton Jackson on vibes. But it is Sonny's playing that really drives this track.

"I'm An Old Cowhand"

"I'm An Old Cowhand" is a strange tune written by Johnny Mercer for the film Rhythm On The Range (in which Bing Crosby sings it).  I actually really dig this tune, one I hadn't heard before. It's from Sonny's Way Out West album (1957), and there is a western feel to Shelly Manne's drumming, particularly at the beginning and end of the tune, like a horse trotting on the range. There is something deliciously playful in Sonny's lead, especially in the moments just before Ray Brown's bass solo. That leads into a drum solo by Shelly Manne.

"There's No Business Like Show Business"

This collection features a swingin', even rollicking, rendition of the Irving Berlin tune "There's No Business Like Show Business."  Check out that fast-paced lead by Ray Bryant on piano. This rendition has certainly given me a new appreciation for this song. I love Max Roach's playing on this one.

"There's No Business Like Show Business" was originally written for the musical Annie Get Your Gun.  This track was originally included on Work Time.

"Tenor Madness"

"Tenor Madness" is the title track from a 1956 release. This song's title is totally apt, as it features John Coltrane on tenor sax. So you have two giants on that instrument. Yet the tune sticks within its fun groove, not going off into any truly insane territory - though their interaction in the second half of the song is fantastic, and helps to make this one of the collection's best tracks.  This is the third original composition by Sonny Rollins in this collection, and is the CD's longest track. This track also features nice leads by Red Garland on piano and Paul Chambers on bass, as well as some great work by Philly Joe Jones on drums.

CD Track List
  1. St. Thomas
  2. Pent-Up House
  3. In A Sentimental Mood
  4. I'm An Old Cowhand
  5. Someday I'll Find You
  6. There's No Business Like Show Business
  7. You Don't Know What Love Is
  8. Tenor Madness
  9. The Last Time I Saw Paris
  10. I've Found A New Baby
The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins was released on June 12, 2012 through Concord Music Group. Also released on that day were The Very Best Of The Miles Davis Quintet, The Very Best Chet Baker, The Very Best Of Wes Montgomery, and The Very Best Of John Coltrane: The Prestige Era.

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