Sonny Rollins Plus 4 is the Max Roach-Clifford Brown quintet before the bitter accident. George Morrow is on bass, and the late Richie Powell on piano. Sonny wrote the captivatingly-realized jazz waltz and also the last track, which is, I think, the most image-evoking title of the year. At the time of the crash, the quintet had begun to reach a rare fused unity that came from playing long hours together and, basically, from a warm similarity in musical viewpoint. The newest member, Rollins, had apparently become comfortable and relaxed in the combo.
Powell had improved very much, as is tragically evident here and on the Basin Street EmArcy LP (DownBeat, Sept 10). He was playing with much more confidence, drive, and imagination.
Brownie was moving inexorably toward status as one of the very greatest of jazz hornman, turning ore and more of his irrepressible exuberance in the joy of playing in having such command of his horn into consistently explosive flying, rising lines that were less and less deflected by flurries of somewhat gratuitous notes, although the dizzying speed ad fluency remained.
Morrow had grown considerably and Max continued to be a source of power and stimulation, searching out fresh, challenging broken-rhythm patterns while driving the band.
All this actuality and promise of the quintet is here, with Rollins playing the most sustainedly creative tenor I’ve heard on a record by him before. His impressive rhythmic strength is there as always, but the conception has broadened and relaxed and there is less of the inflexible hardness that had marred some previous performances. The record is very much recommended. DB
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