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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Jack Ashby




Bluebird's Best. Bluebird CD 09026 63996 2



Sonny Rollins - tenor saxophone with various groups including Coleman Hawkins - tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock and Paul Bley - piano, Don Cherry - trumpet, Jim Hall - guitar, Bob Cranshaw - bass, Candido - bongos.
Recorded 1962 - 1964.

1. St. Thomas
2. Four ( Alternate )
3. Long Ago And Far Away
4. All The Things You Are
5. The Bridge
6. God Bless The Child
7. Dearly Beloved
8. Blue'n' Boogie
9. Bluesongo
10. Don't Stop The Carnival

Sonny Rollins is reputed to have had a big money contract with RCA during the early 1960's and the this disc is a representative selection from the albums he recorded at this time. Rollins has since stated that it might have been a good contract for a Jazz artist but that it was hardly comparable to the type of deal experienced by the performers in the "Pop" world. He was also rumoured to have had unlimited time and access to the studios but this has been rather negated by later statements. These sessions occurred after Rollins had absented himself from the scene for about two years to redefine his playing and to bring his personal life under control.

The music contained here is amongst the most experimental and rewarding of the artist's career. It was perhaps not perceived in this way by many of his followers at the time of its release, they were more accustomed to the hard-driving post-bop of his earlier years, but Rollins obviously felt the need for greater experimentation, possibly driven by contemporaries such as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. His playing on these selections is far more varied dynamically and in terms of his melodic ideas and sense of rhythm and tempo. His tone has not altered greatly at this time and is still quite hard and attacking, but there is now more variety in the way he bends and distorts notes.

The items from "The Bridge" which feature Jim Hall on guitar ( 5&6 ) are particularly fine examples of Rollin's music from this period - the title track is interesting with its gradual morphing of the time in both the theme statement and during the solos. The tune itself is yet another variation on the " I Got Rhythm" sequence. " All The Things You Are " comes from the album with Coleman Hawkins and it almost feels as if Rollins is intentionally oblique in his delivery in order not to clash with the mighty swing of one of his heroes. " Don't Stop The Carnival" is a real oddity with the use of the celestial choir on the theme -it is pieces like this which lead me to believe that perhaps Rollins did not have quite the artistic freedom that some sources would lead one to understand. Nevertheless, the saxophonist's performances on this compilation are superbly compelling throughout and if the listener does not intend to purchase all of the original albums this is an absolute Jazz essential.

Dick Stafford.

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