Sonny Rollins

Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years

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This handy double-disc set is a streamlined compilation from the six-CD box of Sonny Rollins Complete RCA Victor Recordings. Rollins' tenure with the label coincided with his return from an extended period of inactivity between 1962 and 1964. Before his fine Impulse outings, Rollins began exploring the fringes of modern jazz playing outside. These various situations are represented here to a degree. Obviously, the most notable cuts come off The Bridge, one of his seminal outings, and from What's New?, both of which featured guitarist Jim Hall. The more "out" material here comes from Our Man in Jazz and Three in Jazz with Ornette Coleman's sidemen Billy Higgins and Don Cherry -- the latter album also featured vanguard bassist Henry Grimes. Grimes also appears on Sonny Meets Hawk!, where Rollins challenged the great elder tenor to move to the left as far as possible, and Coleman Hawkins took the challenge. Pianist Paul Bley appears on these recordings as well as Grimes and bassist Bob Cranshaw. Rollins also recorded his own original take on standards for the album the The Standard Sonny Rollins, which is represented here as is Now's the Time with Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter with drummer Roy McCurdy. For the price, this is a decent set, though Rollins fans will have everything on it. There are more suitable introductions on the Prestige label, but this collection does capture the great tenorman at a very adventurous crossroads in his career.

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