Adrian Rollini was one of the great jazz musicians of the 1920s. Although he could play several instruments, he gained fame for being the king of the bass saxophone. His playing, which influenced baritonist Harry Carney and to a lesser extent tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, was virtuosic. Although he sometimes functioned as a tuba or string bass in the ensembles, Rollini's solos were heated and full of creative ideas and wit. However by the early '30s, the bass sax was on its way to near-extinction. Rollini began doubling on the vibraphone, where his only real competitor was Lionel Hampton (who did not really get going on records until 1936), and he ran a club, Adrian's Tap Room. Although not gaining much attention during the 1930s, Rollini stayed active and recorded occasionally until he disappeared in 1940. He later turned up in Florida, running a fishing camp and just playing music now and then up until his mysterious death in 1956. 1937-1938 has five record dates led by Rollini, his last recordings other than a dozen trio sides from 1938-1939 that feature his vibes-guitar-bass group. The music, which includes a few commercial dance band ballad numbers, also has its moments of hot jazz. Rollini teams up with the exciting trumpeter Jonah Jones and the fine clarinetist Sid Stoneburn on four septet numbers that were unissued at the time. While Red McKenzie's two vocals are just okay (and this version of "I Cried for You" is a disappointment), "Bugle Call Rag" and "Old Fashioned Love" receive fine treatments. The same key players (other than McKenzie) are part of a larger group heard on five numbers, including two versions of "Slap That Bass." An intriguing octet on which Rollini is joined by trumpeter Johnny McGhee (who hints at Bix Beiderbecke in spots), clarinetist Paul Ricci, violinist Al Duffy, and drummer Buddy Rich (at the beginning of his jazz career) romp on "Bill" and accompany singer Pat Hoke on two songs, including "Singin' the Blues." While Rollini is mostly heard on bass sax during those selections, the numbers are his final appearances on the giant horn. The last two sessions have Rollini on vibes and xylophone, where he had less personality but was a fluent player. A quintet with cornetist Bobby Hackett and Buddy Rich is joined by singer Sonny Schuyler for five songs (including a version of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" cut just a few months after the Andrews Sisters' hit record) and finally for four numbers performed by a vocal group called the Tune Twisters (plus two alternate takes). Hackett keeps the music interesting. Although not essential, this valuable CD contains rare sessions and reminds one of the significance of the great Adrian Rollini, even late in his career.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow