Sonny left the music biz in the late '50s and early '60s, then returned with a triumphant series of LPs. Here are five of 'em: 1962's Our Man in Jazz (with the jaw-dropping epic Oleo ) and What's New? (he teams with Jim Hall on If Ever I Would Leave You and his own Bluesong ), 1963's storied meeting with Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Meets Hawk! (with thrilling excursions through standards like All the Things You Are and Yesterdays ) and 1964's Now's the Time and The Standard Sonny Rollins (both with Herbie Hancock)…
Sonny Rollins must have liked hearing Billy Holiday with two of her absolute classic numbers included and a composition he composed himself which has no familarity with Billy Holiday's classic "Loverman" but the title "Love Man" sandwiched in between the two Billy Holiday numbers does make one think. Anyway recorded in 1973 and this album "Horn Culture" is Sonny's second album after his last absence from the Jazz scene in the late sixties and early seventies doing yoga and the Eastern thing but he sure came back vibrant and as usual he played beautifully with this album being no exception.
The Beacon Theatre in New York holds 2,700 people, and—much like fans claiming to have seen the final game of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field—there may already be 20,000 people who swear they were there for Sonny Rollins' 80th Birthday performance. At 80 years old, Rollins is still a damn good tenor saxophonist, and Roadshows Volume 2 captures terrific performances from three 2010 live dates, with a heavy emphasis on that birthday party and some A-list guests.
Sonny Rollins is featured in a variety of performances culled from his personal archives along with soundboard tapings by collector Carl Smith from concerts recorded between 1980 and his historic 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall (which honored his first concert there in 1957). Rollins is in peak form on every selection, while this first compilation in what is likely to be an extensive CD series is a virtual highlight reel from over a quarter-century span of his career. He works his way through the theme of his blistering "Best Wishes" 35 times, never running short of ideas in his variations.
This set combines two of Sonny Rollins' LPs for Impulse Records, There Will Never Be Another You and On Impulse!, both of which were originally issued in 1965. There Will Never Be Another You featured the saxophonist playing a live set (in the rain, apparently) with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and Billy Higgins and Mickey Roker on drums. Rollins is in fine form, playing standards including a nearly 17-minute version of the title tune. He wanders off the microphone frequently, though, which is a problem, and it makes this otherwise very nice set less than essential.
Our Man in Jazz is an album by jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, recorded for the RCA Victor label, featuring July 1962 performances by Rollins with Don Cherry, Bob Cranshaw, and Billy Higgins. These performances have been described as contrasting from Rollins' previous style by moving to "very long free-form fancies, swaggering and impetuous".
Half of this LP contains the famous session on which Sonny Rollins teamed up with his idol, the great tenor Coleman Hawkins. Actually, the competitive Rollins did everything he could during these performances to throw Hawk off with plenty of sound explorations and free playing, but Hawkins keeps from getting lost and battles Rollins for a tie; pianist Paul Bley plays well too. The remainder of this LP (three selections apiece from the former LPs Now's the Time and The Standard Sonny Rollins) is more conventional but has its moments of interest. The young Herbie Hancock is on piano for all of these tracks and guitarist Jim Hall helps on "Trav'lin Light." Rollins's RCA recordings of the '60s are all worth picking up.
Sonny Rollins has an all-star backup band on this 1980 release: keyboardist George Duke, bassist Stanley Clarke, drummer Al Foster and on some selections percussionist Bill Summers. The music ranges from "The Very Thought of You" and a remake of "Strode Rode" to some more lightweight group originals. Decent music but nothing that memorable occurs.
This average effort from Sonny Rollins and his regular sextet is most notable for two numbers ("For All We Know" and "I Should Care") that find Branford Marsalis joining Rollins in a quintet with pianist Tommy Flanagan. Unfortunately Marsalis makes the fatal error of trying to imitate Rollins (instead of playing in his own musical personality) and he gets slaughtered. Much better are Rollins's romps on "Tennessee Waltz" and "Falling in Love with Love."
Rollins' 20th album for Fantasy finds him once again addressing environmental issues through his music as he previously had on 1958's Freedom Suite. In fact, Rollins refers to this disc as his "Freedom Suite of 1998." Besides the calypso-influenced title track, Rollins also pens three other new songs to fit this environmentally conscious project, "Mother Nature's Blues," "Echo-Side Blues," and "Clear Cut Boogie." Also on tap is a scintillating remake of "Island Lady" and the Gershwin standard "Change Partners." Utilizing a quartet for three of the tracks and a sextet for the remainder, Rollins' blowing is impassioned throughout and the surroundings are nice and intimate, making this a very inspired set.