The single-disc Sonny Rollins collection The Best of the Complete RCA Victor Recordings pares down the most essential tracks from the exhaustive six-disc box set The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. Generally considered to be one of Rollins' most surprising periods, the RCA recordings featured here were recorded by the legendary jazz saxophonist between 1962 and 1964. Featured here are recordings from 1962's The Bridge, What's New?, and Our Man in Jazz; 1963's Sonny Meets Hawk!; and 1964's Now's the Time and The Standard Sonny Rollins. This period came on the heels of Rollins' return to performing after his self-imposed three-year hiatus beginning in 1959. During that time, Rollins worked intensely to further develop his playing, famously using the Williamsburg Bridge as his private practice space. Although his comeback album, 1962's The Bridge, didn't immediately reveal a huge musical transformation (he essentially sounded like the Sonny of old), his "sabbatical" was clearly a creatively rejuvenating one that prefigured his move into ever more avant-garde territory by the end of the '60s. Ultimately, these albums showcase a more subtle revolution in which Rollins, ever the journeyman, his ear turned to the free jazz horizon, digs even deeper into muscular, motivic improvisation, danceable rhythms, and, as always, his warm, robust tenor sound.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar