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REVIEW    DownBeat  /  June 27, 1957


Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus

Prestige 7070

★★★★★

Rudy Van Gelder Remasters


Almost as if in answer to the charge that there is a lack of grace and beauty in the work of the New York hard-swingers comes this album in which Rollins displays humor, gentleness, a delicate feeling for beauty in line, and a puckish sense of humor. And all done with the uncompromising swinging that has characterized them all along.

The treatment of Moritat, for instance, or Blue Seven, show Rollins in particularly interesting statements and restatements of ideas. The latter tune is an especially compelling work. From the fascinating bass introduction, through the discontinuity of Sonny’s first chorus, the piano solo, the duet between Sonny and Max, on through the rest of the piece till the final fade out—it is all modern jazz of the first rank.

Rollins’ playing on the slow ballad, You Don’t Know What Love Is was a moving experience for me to hear. A gentle, easy, carful man—rather like a giant male nurse handling a particularly angry wound.

Flanagan’s solo on this track is a thing of rare beauty. He has an unusually gentle tone on the piano. Watkins bass through this track and the entire LP is a continuingly deft, elemental, and propelling force.

Lest you think I am overlooking Roach, I would like to say that this record contains, for me, some of the best drum breaks and solos I have ever heard.

Roach continues to be head and shoulders above every other drummer in this musical conception of a drum solo, in his exploration of the potentialities of the instrument, and his unfailing good taste in the use of the sounds and combinations of sounds his explorations produce.

His solo on Blue Seven is, to me, the delineation in very definite form of the direction the drum solo must go. Max allows full value to the tones he can draw from his battery; he thinks of figurations always in musical terms and, in short, is the musical thinker on the drums that no other drummer has appeared to be, despite their excitement, their drive, and their overwhelming swing.

In no spot on this record does Roach appear to have made one sound without a logical reason for its being there. He understands the use of economy, too. And this is a virtue of which he is almost the only possessor.

I find this entire album excellent on all counts and for all persons concerned (the recorded sound is a gas, by the way). But I especially endorse it because of the object lesion in how to play the drums. —Ralph J. Gleason


Saxophone Colossus: St. Thomas; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Strode Rode: Moriatat; Blue Seven.
Personnel: Rollins, tenor; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Max Roach, drums; Doug Watkins, bass.


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