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Sonny Rollins: The Sound of Sonny

Rollins made only two albums for the Riverside label in the late 1950s: the famous Freedom Suite and this one, a typical example of why his work from this period is a high-water mark in the history of the jazz saxophone. With drummer Roy Haynes in the driver’s seat and the always delightful Sonny Clark on piano, Rollins spun his way through a couple of his own tunes and a half-dozen or so grand standards: all of them grist for the churning mill of his boundless imagination (although how he manages to spin gold from the pure corn of “Toot Toot Tootsie” remains a significant mystery). “The Last Time I Saw Paris” is a gem: Rollins’ asides to his own statement of the melody make it a classic case of his one-man-band arrangements, while his first improvised chorus does away with all accompaniment except for the metronomic downbeat of each measure-presaging his completely unaccompanied rendition of “It Could Happen To You,” which also appears here. Such moments make this album as historically important as it is enjoyable: while not the first Rollins album to rush out and buy, it still has plenty to recommend it, including the late-’50s charm of the relaxed pacing and the period-piece nature of the program (sort of “Rollins For A Rainy Afternoon”). The DCC 24-carat gold audiophile pressing gets the sound just right, down to the slight clack of the tenor’s keys in quieter passages, and like the original CD reissue of this album on Fantasy/OJC, it includes a six-minute bonus track, the lively “Funky Hotel Blues.”

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