He's in the pantheon of jazz greats and is arguably one of the finest tenor sax players ever. Alongside the likes of John Coltrane and Lester Young, Sonny Rollins is there and he continues to perform. In 2007 he's traveling from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Spain, Belgium to Victoria, B.C. He achieved worldwide success, however, in the 1950s when he recorded some great records for Blue Note, Contemporary, Riverside, and Prestige. This was before Coltrane rose in fame, and before Rollins dropped out of music entirely from 1959 to 1961.
It was in 1956 that Rollins recorded the brilliant Sonny Rollins: Plus Four. It's been recently digitally remastered at Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey. In fact, the original recording was done in Van Gelder Studio ion March 22, 1956 and it remains as fresh today as it ever has.
Using the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet as sidemen (Rollins, himself, was a member) for the album, it's Rollins at his finest. Clifford Brown is on trumpet. He died the following year (1957) and so Plus Four is one of his final recordings. His tone is clean, pointed. Richie Powell is smooth on the piano. George Morrow lays down the bass and Max Roach plays drums.
The album, sadly, is much too short. Just when one is getting into the groove, the album abruptly ends (though excellently with "Pent-Up House"), about 30+ minutes in. Of course, this isn't anyone's fault, particularly, it's just unfortunate that you can't get just a bit more of Rollins and the boys. "Valse Hot" starts things off and is a waltzy number where Rollins and Brown weave up and down and around and around, like a melodic dance note for note. "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," is a short quiet number that showcases Rollins' warm tones.
The CD itself, a part of the "Rudy Van Gelder Remasters" series, compliments the music wonderfully. It includes Ira Gitler's original liner notes as well as a new note from Gilder composed in October of '06. Thanks, Mr. Gitler for your efforts. Thanks, Van Gelder, for remastering this Rollins classic and thanks, Mr. Rollins, for your musicianship. My toes are tapping right now listening to "I Feel a Song Coming On."