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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anticipation of things to come, 6 Jan 2004
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This review is from: A Night At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
At some point in 1956 Sonny Rollins developed from being a promising new voice on the tenor saxophone to one of the great jazz improvisers. From then until his temporary withdrawal from the jazz scene at the end of the decade he produced a series of fine recorded sessions, including a classic album aptly titled ‘Saxophone Colossus’. Whether or not this Village Vanguard recording is one of the best of these, it is valuable for capturing Rollins in good form in a live setting accompanied only by bass and drums. Of additional interest is that the drummer was another jazz colossus treading his own path to greatness: Elvin Jones.
As these were live sessions, it’s not surprising if some of Sonny’s playing is more diffuse than in the more tightly constructed pieces on his studio albums from this period. Nevertheless there is a lot of inspired and energetic playing here. Tracks such as “Sonnymoon for Two”, “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” and “A Night in Tunisia” are often singled out as highlights; but I haven’t yet come across any appreciation of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” as the most remarkable track. It reminds me of two other Rollins classics: “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (on the earlier album, ‘Worktime’) and “Three Little Words” (‘Sonny Rollins on Impulse’ – 1965). Like them it shows Sonny paring down and reconstructing a well-known standard with characteristic resourcefulness and wit, playing with motifs from the tune and with time and phrasing, and managing to sound both supremely relaxed and intensely concentrated at a moderately fast tempo. Notice how at the beginning he exploits the lack of a piano accompaniment to create harmonic ambiguity: by playing with just a few notes from the tune he teasingly hides its identity for a few bars (it sounds at first as though he is going to launch into “Toot, Toot, Tootsie”).
Here and there on these sessions, but particularly on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” you can also hear Elvin Jones beginning to cut loose from his influences and to anticipate the kind of percussion playing he was to develop in the next few years, reaching a peak in his work with John Coltrane in the 1960s. For example, on this track he already shows that ability both to maintain the basic pulse and to appear to subvert it with the use of increasingly complex polyrhythms. This begins to happen behind Sonny’s solo and becomes increasingly adventurous in Elvin’s. There is a particularly telling moment at the end of Elvin’s long solo, when, after the original tempo seems to have been lost in a succession of polyrhythms, Rollins comes back in, immediately picking up the original tempo as if both players had rehearsed it down to the fraction of a beat. If it weren’t for that moment when Sonny re-establishes control, one could suppose that on this track Elvin is the leader, taking the music where he wants it to go (it is he who has the first as well as the last word!). So for different reasons I think this track is the ‘classic’ of the album and one which gives an intriguing anticipation of things to come – not only of Elvin’s later work with Coltrane and others but also of the increasingly abstract style which Sonny was to develop in the next decade.
To describe these performances as ‘dialogues’ between Sonny and Elvin would be to unfairly slight the contribution of bassist Wilbur Ware who plays well throughout, reliably maintaining the trio’s harmonic foundation, and who produces some good melodic motifs in his solos on “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”. But it’s fair to say that his more conventional playing helps to set in relief the occasional glimpses into the future we get from his partners. Whether as an historical document or in its own terms as an exhilarating blowing session, this is a highly recommended album.
The sound is mono only, but for a club date is good – clear, realistic and well balanced between the three instruments.
The only other collaboration between Sonny and Elvin that I know of is the mid-1960s album, ‘East Broadway Rundown’. You might not like the long ‘free jazz’ title track, but the remaining two excellent trio tracks are available on a CD in the Priceless Jazz series, along with some other good Rollins performances from the period (Priceless Jazz GRP98762– see my amazon.co.uk review).
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonny at his best..., 11 May 2002
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T. Clark (Sunny Southend) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Night At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
As we know, he doesn't need a piano player and all his best recordings are effectively a two way sax/drums dialogue. Not quite up to the standard set on Saxophone Colosuss with Max Roach, this has a young Elvin Jones still perfecting the style that would make him a legend with Coltrane. Sonny himself is in his usual form from this period when he was still the master and Coltrane the pretender waiting in the wings. Wilbur Ware on bass brings a unique contribution to Sonny's music as he did with Monk's. The live atmosphere is fantastic, the remastered sound is very good for the period, and what more can you ask for than 2 hours of Sonny blowing his sax? But beautiful....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Rollins, 8 Aug 2013
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Allan Mcfadyen "Allan McFadyen" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is some fine playing from a saxophone colossus and anyone with the slightest interest in hard bop jazz should have no hesitation in adding this gem to their collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard, 1957., 11 May 2013
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Jazzrook (Purbrook , Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Night At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
This excellent 2-CD set by the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins was recorded live at the Village Vanguard, New York City during the afternoon and evening of Sunday, November 3, 1957.
Most of the sixteen tracks feature a pianoless trio Of Rollins with bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones who are replaced by Donald Bailey(bass) & Pete LaRoca(drums) on a couple of matinee tracks.
Rollins is at the peak of his creative powers and highlights include wonderful treatments of 'Old Devil Moon', 'Softly As In A Morning Sunrise'(2 versions) plus Rollins' 'Sonnymoon For Two'.
The marvellous music plus an atmospheric club recording and Sonny's announcements make this RVG Edition an indispensable item in any modern jazz collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 14 Mar 2013
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This review is from: A Night At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
everything I hoped for,over the moon with all the tracks on it recommend it to any Sonny Rollins fan great
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A Night At The Village Vanguard
A Night At The Village Vanguard by Sonny Rollins (Audio CD - 1999)
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