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Music: Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus

Though he lacked the improvisational fire of John Coltrane or the restless curiosity of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins played with a rich, round tone that complemented his melodic inclinations, making him the most accessible of the postbop musicians. Saxophone Colossus is the most successful of the late 1950s albums that made his reputation. Rollins’s playing never falters; he’s backed by the redoubtable Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Rollins is equally at home with the lilting Caribbean air of “St. Thomas,” standards (“You Don’t Know What Love Is”), blues (“Strode Rode,” featuring a driving Flanagan solo), and a smoldering version of Brecht-Weill’s “Moritat” (better known as “Mac the Knife”). If you are new to jazz, there is no better place to start than Saxophone Colossus.
Saxophonist Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins solidified his claim to the top tenor spot of the late 1950’s with albums like, “Way Out West” and this one. His tone is warm, full, and flawless as he swings his way through this set with Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. The calypso flavored “St Thomas” opens the disc and is a textbook example of what makes Rollins great. His playing is effortless, relaxed, and flawless. He displays his talent for uncovering unconventional material with a selection from a German musical here titled “Moritat”. The final track is the jazz masterpiece “Blue7”. Featuring masterful solos by Roach and Rollins this track leaves one feeling Sonny is cooler than most people could hope to be. Saxophone Colossus is one of those rare albums that is packed with legendary performances and future standards, flawless from top to bottom.

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Sonny Rollins , considered by many to be the quintessential live performer, admittedly felt restricted in a studio. However listening to his masterpiece Saxophone Colossus it is clear that he was on this occasion able to capture some of the energy of a live performance on vinyl. The record is a tour-du-force of Rollins musical vision and mastery of improvisational inventiveness within a melodic and harmonic form that draws the listener in chorus after chorus.

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Sonny Rollins is one of jazz’s great innovators, arguably the most influential tenor saxophonist, along with John Coltrane, in the history of modern jazz. He began his musical career at the age of eleven, and within five short years he was playing with the legendary Thelonious Monk. In the late forties, before his twenty-first birthday, Rollins was in full swing, recording with jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis, and he was hailed as the best jazz tenor man alive in the mid-fifties. Still active today, Rollins and his compelling sound reach a whole new generation of listeners with his eagerly anticipated live appearances.


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