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Strolling with Rollins (2)

thu 16 nov 2023
Theme: Jazz

Saturday November 18th, 2023, 5:00 PM – House of Hard Bop.
This is part 2 of a series of live trio recordings by tenorist Sonny Rollins.*) Today the final set of A Night at the village Vanguard  (1957), with bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones. It is Rollins’ first live recording as a band leader. Critic Scott Yanow included the album in his 17 Essential Hard Bop Recordings, and The Penguin Guide to Jazz writes: “These are recordings which demand a place in any collection.”
Rollins announces the first song of the evening, the Cole Porter standard “What Is This Thing Called Love”. That piece was on the set list a year earlier during a studio recording by the Clifford Brown/Sonny Rollins/Max Roach Quintet. It then had an exceptionally long intro of one minute. In that intro, Rollins rehearsed the first two notes of the theme – a descending minor third. Here in the Vanguard, drummer Jones is allowed to join first, taking his time, after which Rollins joins in with the same opening motif. Further on, a four-by-four between sax and drums transitions seamlessly into a four-and-a-half-minute drum solo. With a finishing time of almost fourteen minutes, this is the longest piece of the evening. Bassist Wilbur Ware keeps the listener focused by undisturbedly articulating the chord progression – and thus the form – clearly.

The program is a mix of standards and Rollins’ own work. His “Sonnymoon For Two” is a relaxed 12-part blues. The four-part theme is repeated twice, and moves between a high and a low Bb (B flat). Also in the improvisation part the sax seems to be constantly drawn back to that low Bb. This time the bass participates in the four-on-four game.
Beautiful work from drummer Elvin Jones! Here we already hear something of his free-flowing style, which he would develop to great heights a few years later in John Coltrane’s quartet.

Max Gordon was the owner of jazz club The Village Vanguard. In his memoirs (1980) there is the following passage: “(…) Sonny never hired a musician he didn’t fire at least once, and often right in the middle of a number. He once fired Elvin Jones, probably jazz’s greatest drummer.”

1 What Is This Thing Called Love  (Cole Porter)
2 Sonnymoon For Two                  (Sonny Rollins)
3 I Can’t Get Started                     (Vernon Duke)
4 I’ll Remember April                      (Gene De Paul)
5 Get Happy                                   (Harold Arlen)
6 Striver’s Row                               (Sonny Rollins)
7 All The Things You Are                 (Jerome Kern)

A very good evening!

“Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland”
In May 1967, Rollins made a small tour of the Netherlands, organized by Jaap van de Klomp. He gave concerts in Hilversum, Arnhem and Loosdrecht, assisted by bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. Indeed, a strolling occupation. He played standards and his own Sonnymoon For Two. The recordings have been released on a double CD, co-produced by Resonance Records & the Dutch Jazz Archive. The included booklet, about 100 pages, is a treasure trove of very wide-ranging information and photo material.

House of Hard Bop – Eric Ineke

*) Click for the newsletter for part 1

*) Click for the broadcast of part 1

Photo: Sonny Rollins during the recording of A Night at the Village Vanguard
Francis Wolff/Blue Note Records