This is Sonny from 1957, one of the very best of years. It was the first of his recordings for Riverside and attracted quite a bit of attention at the time, as being a bit of a new direction for him then. It was one of his first records to feature unlikely, and at first sight, unsuitable old pop songs. 'The Last Time I Saw Paris' is one, played without piano, and is both attractive and entertaining. 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye' is the other, but the tune is so beyond redemption that despite Rollin's best efforts the number is little more than amusing. The disc was also one of his first efforts to vary personnel in the course of the session, by dropping piano from 'Paris' and playing 'It could Happen To You' as a solo. This is interesting but not to my mind of the same quality as the pieces by the full quartet. So the innovations were of only mixed success but you can't blame the guy for trying.
The rest of the tunes feature the full quartet of Rollins, Sonny Clark, Percy Heath (Paul Chambers substituting on two numbers) and Roy Haynes. They are all of very high quality, with an attractive mix of mainly standards including some beautiful ballad playing and one, 'Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye' which is taken at a bouncy medium tempo, an unusual treatment which works very well indeed. There is a good blues and a couple of lively medium pace numbers, one of which, 'Mangoes', has an attractive latin base. Sonny plays throughout with a full tone and plenty of melodic ideas. There is nothing ugly about his sound which could be the case sometimes in later years.
The rest of the band could not be better. Bass and drums keep matters lively and swinging at all times as alpha plus musicians of this calibre should do, and as for Sonny Clark: well, he just flows along, one of the very finest of a lot of fine pianists about at this time.
A very attractive record. Not one of Rollin's very best but not that far off.