Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vintage Sonny Rollins On Impulse

Among the two LPs on one CD reissues that mark 50 years of Impulse is Sonny Rollins’ On Impulse/ There Will Always Be Another You. The two albums were both recorded in 1965, with On Impulse a studio recording that was his first release for the label while There Will Never Be Another You was a live recording from a performance at new York City’s Museum of Modern Art that was not released until 1978. Drummer Mickey Roker is on both recordings. On Impulse also had Ray Bryant on piano and Walter Booker on bass, while pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Billy Higgins (along with Roker) were on the live Museum of Modern Art recording which took place a few weeks prior to the studio session.

Also common to both recordings was renditions of On Green Dolphin Street, and Three Little Words. The live rendition of the former number being preferred to these ears as Rollins’ tenor sounds a bit sour opening On Impulse. This isn’t to dismiss the performance as it grows stronger during the improvisation. Highpoints on this studio date include the moody Everything Happens To Me which is ideal material for his thematic explorations; and a Rogers and Hart standard Blue Room.

The live rendition of On Green Dolphin Street sounds more energetic (perhaps because of the two drummers). There is splendid Tommy Flanagan on this and then the performance segues into the live Three Little Words. Here Rollins is first unaccompanied, then the drummers join and are followed by piano and bass on the briskly paced rendition. Mademoiselle de Paris is a brief waltz followed by the lovely To A Wild Rose, which he co-authored and then this performance concludes with a very lengthy treatment of the title track.

Rollins playing is superlative throughout, although he sounds off-mike at times and the drums may be a tad too prominent and sound boxy. This may account for why this was not issued until over a decade later. Despite the sound, Rollins and Flanagan especially are terrific throughout this. There is so much classic Sonny Rollins and this contains more very good Rollins.

My review copy was sent by Jazz & Blues Report for whom this was originally written. Here is Sonny Rollins being honored by President Obama as part of the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors.

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