Sonny Rollins

The Best of Sonny Rollins

At 74, tenor saxophonist Theodore “Sonny” Rollins is still going strong. He’s a superb improviser whose recording career began at 18 (with trombonist J.J. Johnson), and this CD collects some of his best work for Prestige, for whom he recorded during 1951-56. It leads off with Rollins’ captivating calypso, “St. Thomas,” with a killer rhythm section of Tommy Flanagan, Doug Watkins and Max Roach all achieving immortality in under seven minutes. Rollins worked with Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and the Clifford Brown-Max Roach combo during these years, and Monk joins him on one track, the ballad “More Than You Know.” He’s joined by Brown and Roach for an uptempo romp on “I Feel a Song Coming On” that gives one a sense of the heat this group generated on stage. “Tenor Madness” teams him with that other tenor sax titan—John Coltrane from Davis’ 1956 band. Another highlight—and this CD truly lives up to its title—is a lush reading of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” with the Modern Jazz Quartet.