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Sound of Sonny (Keepnews Collection)

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Album Review

A new phase in Sonny Rollins' career began in 1957. He started what was at the time an almost blasphemous trend of recording for a number of different labels. His pioneering spirit yielded a few genre-defining albums, including this disc. His performances were also at a peak during 1957 as Down Beat magazine proclaimed him the Critics' Poll winner under the category of "New Star" of the tenor saxophone. This newfound freedom can be heard throughout the innovations on The Sound of Sonny. Not only are Rollins' fluid solos reaching newly obtained zeniths of melodic brilliance, but he has also begun experimenting with alterations in the personnel from tune to tune. Most evident on this platter is "The Last Time I Saw Paris" — which is piano-less — and most stunning of all is Rollins' unaccompanied tenor solo performance on "It Could Happen to You." Indeed, this rendering of the Jimmy Van Heusen standard is the highlight of the disc. That isn't to say that the interaction between Sonny Clark (piano), Roy Haynes (drums), and bassists Percy Heath and Paul Chambers — who is featured on "The Last Time I Saw Paris" and "What Is There to Say" — is not top-shelf. Arguably, it is Rollins and Heath — the latter, incidentally, makes his East Coast debut on this album — who set the ambience for The Sound of Sonny. There is an instinctually pervasive nature as they weave into and back out of each others' melody lines, only to emerge with a solo that liberates the structure of the mostly pop standards. This is a key component in understanding the multiplicities beginning to surface in Rollins' highly underappreciated smooth bop style.

Customer Reviews


Musically, this would be a 4-5 star session, but if the track supplied as part of a complimentary sampler is representative, the audio is dramatically sub-par. It sounds like a session recorded by an amateur, with Rollins' horn in the distance--weak and barely audible. For surefire, top-shelf Rollins, look for "Saxophone Colossus" or "Newk's Time" ("Way Out West" and "The Bridge" are critics' favorites and, despite the absence of a piano, can be recommended). With Rollins, like so many artists, the collector has to be selective. Later his full, deep and muscular sound would be replaced by a raw and raspy one with treblish overtones, and Sonny would seem to relish playing interminable choruses on simple calypso chords and rhythms while lunging about the stage. For the ultimate Rollins, go to his duets / duels on Verve with Sonny Stitt, especially "Eternal Triangle" (on "Sonnyside Up"-- also listen to Roberta Gambarini's note for note transcription of Diz' and both Sonny's solos on "Sonny Side of the Street"). For the nadir in Sonny Rollins' playing, stay as far away as possible from two RCA Victor sessions, one pairing him with Coleman Hawkins (an insult to the Father of the Tenor Saxophone) and another with Don Cherry (Sonny's lame attempt at coming up with an answer to the challenge represented by Coltrane and "Giant Steps").


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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