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The Complete RCA Victor Recordings: Sonny Rollins

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Album Review

This six-CD set has all of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' recordings for RCA, including the complete contents of The Bridge, What's New, Our Man in Jazz, Sonny Meets Hawk, Now's the Time, and The Standard Sonny Rollins, the three selections originally included in the sampler Three in Jazz, and 11 alternate takes only previously released on the French album Alternates. Less well-known than Rollins' earlier Prestige and Riverside records and slightly later Impulse albums, his output for RCA was recorded right after the great tenor came back from an extended sabbatical. The music on The Bridge (with guitarist Jim Hall) is the most famous of these dates. Rollins became increasingly interested in the avant-garde during the era, and he used two of Ornette Coleman's sidemen (trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins) in his group for a period. On Sonny Meets Hawk, Rollins challenged his idol Coleman Hawkins by playing as outside as possible (Hawkins responded well). Other musicians heard on these recordings include bassists Bob Cranshaw, Ron Carter, and Henry Grimes, drummers Ben Riley and Mickey Roker, pianists Paul Bley and Herbie Hancock, and (on a couple of numbers) cornetist Thad Jones. However, Rollins is the main star throughout the adventurous and sometimes eccentric performances, coming up with many remarkable ideas, often rollicking with a pianoless rhythm section and in two cases taking duets with the congas of Candido. Serious Rollins collectors will have to have this valuable set, although since most of the selections have also been reissued on individual CDs, more casual jazz fans may be satisfied with one or two of the smaller reissues.


Born: September 7, 1930 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sonny Rollins will go down in history as not only the single most enduring tenor saxophonist of the bebop and hard bop era, but also as one of the greatest contemporary jazz saxophonists of them all. His fluid and harmonically innovative ideas, effortless manner, and easily identifiable and accessible sound have influenced generations of performers, but have also fueled the notion that mainstream jazz music can be widely enjoyed, recognized, and proliferated. Born Theodore Walter Rollins in New York...
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