Sonny Rollins Worktime (1955) Esquire

Selected Track: Theres No Business Like Show Business

That Irving Berlin song must be the most ironic and unlikely choice of title imaginable,  it must be Sonny having a laugh.


George Morrow (b) Max Roach (d) Ray Bryant (p); Sonny Rollins (ts) Recorded December 2, 1955, Hackensack, NJ.


Recorded at the end of 1955, the year in which Rollins made the break from his drug habit, and six months before recording Saxophone Colossus.  Jazz critic Joe Goldberg wrote of  Worktime “many feel it is the best record Rollins ever made.”  Perhaps they should have called it Playtime, to hear Sonny Rollins having fun deconstructing tunes in a way that would have a lesser saxophonist fumbling. Sonny keeps referring back to the tune but he also at times creates an astonishing rain of notes over what might otherwise be an unpromising set of chord changes. Max Roach maintains Sonny’s propulsive drive, and Ray Bryant piano continues to hold everything together, in the best coach and horses fashion, with Sonny steaming ahead.

Vinyl: Esquire 32-038, first UK release of US Prestige PRLP 7020 (shown below)

The Esquire is taken from stampers from the original master of 7020, which should ensure as direct a lineage as possible. Prestige went on to re-issue Worktime as 7246 (NJ) and later still as 7750 (OJC)

Prestige 1955 NY label original release seems to fluctuate between a cover with a green banner and a pink banner

I didn’t know Prestige went in for matching His and Hers covers, and I haven’t found a good reason for the difference. May be the Vinyl Detective Squad can help. (But no rough stuff, boys. I don’t need Internal Affairs on my back.The mayor’s up for re-election this year and we need results, fast)

I prefer the US original cover to the British “woodcut” by “Sherlock“, but a JazzCollector 2009 post says of the Esquire: “Now this is an awesome cover. The drawing is reminiscent of David Stone Martin. I, frankly, hadn’t seen this cover before so I’m hoping someone out there has more knowledge about it and can share it. I just think it’s a terrific cover all the way around”  No accounting for taste.


Collectors Corner

One of those days, you walk into a shop where your expectations are set somewhere near zero, and winking at you from the wall was this little baby. Someone had brought in a collection of records from a dearly departed relative, with a taste in jazz not shared by his beneficiary. I look on it as recycling, for the greater good. Better than the time I was chatting to a young lad who had inherited an entire collection of Blue Notes to die for – and decided he “quite liked them” and was hoping to find more to fill in the gaps. Lost for another generation, damn. “Mind how you cross the road now, sonny!”

8 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins Worktime (1955) Esquire

    • Moved to Canada in 1965 and still working today. Must be all that fresh air. Esquire using young designers of the day sounds at least more honourable than the usual music business – producers wife or girlfriend who facies themselves as an artist.

  1. So the big question for today is: “where were Esquire records were actually pressed?” In your photo, I believe I see a ‘deep groove’ just inside the edge of the label which looks suspiciously like a 1950s Decca pressing. I haven’t ever seen this die pattern on non-Decca pressings (even Decca stopped using it sometime before 1960).

    If Esquire did get their records pressed at the Decca plant, it would certainly lend much credibility to the argument that Esquire pressings are superior to Prestige. In my experience, US Prestige pressings, even 1950s ‘originals’, are all over the map quality-wise. Decca pressings, on the other hand, are some of the best, if not _the_ best pressings I have run across.

    I did find a record of an eBay seller on popsike peddling a Rollins Esquire release as “Decca pressed”, though that hardly constitutes any kind of proof:

    Anybody else have any crackpot theories and/or factual information?

    On a mostly unrelated note, here’s another tidbit from “The Billboard” circa 1961 announcing that Esquire is going to begin importing US pressings due to the inability to meet demand with their own:

    This does appear to confirm at least that Esquire records were pressed in the UK, not in the US.

    • My Esquire Collection has been updated here, on Flickr, all 28 of them I think. There are a couple more in the post as I write.


      I haven’t had the time to give them the forensic once over, which will have to wait a while. What I did notice following recent chat about “AB”, is that I reckon around a quarter dont have an AB. Thats cat among the pigeons.
      I know Decca pressing quality very well, through the large number of Contemporary Vogue I have, and they had a meticulous house style for matrices which doesn’t gel with Esquire. Every Esquire of whatever age I have has the hand written Prestige catalogue number and an RVG, whether it has an AB or not. Who pressed them is still an open question. No known Decca pressing I have seen has an RVG or hand-written Catalogue number.
      The mystery will need more time to unravel!

    • Greatest inventions known in modern society Alun – the credit card – and Paypal. Allows you to smooth out the peaks and troughs of “no records” and “lots of records” Goes right back to the 1960s hippy-heroes, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. ” Times of dope and no money are better than times of money and no dope”. Figuratively speaking.

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