Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus ★★★★★

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Sonny RollinsPoll Winners Records

Sonny Rollins (ts), Tommy Flanagan, Ray Bryant (p), Doug Watkins, George Morrow (b) and Max Roach (d). Rec. 22 June 1956 plus bonus tracks Rec. 22 December 1955

For once, an album title that doesn’t misrepresent the artist. Newk has been making music of the very highest calibre for well over half a century, but this session could just well be his greatest achievement. And like so many classic albums of the period, it was taped in a single session, in the summer of 1956. The playing of all four musicians concerned: Rollins, Tommy Flanagan, Watkins and Roach is of the highest order to where the passing of 54-years hasn’t in any way diminished its sheer vitality. Truth: it sounds even more contemporary today than way back then with recordist Rudy Van Gelder faithfully capturing the sheer depth of Rollins’ delivery. Though ‘Saint Thomas’ and ‘Moritat’ (‘Mack The Knife’) are this album’s best known tracks a knowing interpretation of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ is surely the jewel in this crown. As a bonus the Work Time album, recorded six months earlier has the leader and Roach bookending Ray Bryant and George Morrow and, as they say, adds extra value. For budding saxophonists, your first lesson starts here.

– Roy Carr