Sonny Rollins: The Sound of Sonny (1957) UK Riverside



Selection 1: Mangoes


Selection 2: It could Happen to You (unaccompanied solo)



Sonny Rollins (ts) Sonny Clark (p) Percy Heath/Paul Chambers  (b) Roy Haynes (d) recorded Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, June 11, 12 &19, 1957

Rollins 1957 chronology: Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2; The Sound of Sonny; Newk’s Time. Sandwiched between two Blue Note classics, recorded for Riverside. After years locked into Prestige, Sonny refused to sign any further exclusive contracts with record labels.

Year :1957

19571957 saw launch of the frozen pizza, and The Frisbee. Due to an unfortunate mix up, Domino’s deliver several million Frisbees with double cheese and extra topping, while thousands of  Frisbee players were struck in the face by frozen pizza. Many dentists became millionaires overnight.


Sonny Delight: Sonny Rollins and Sonny Clark together, making this a notable outing in Rollins very large discography. Also notable for the appearance of Roy Haynes, Mr Snap Crackle. The variety of line ups – some with piano, some “piano-less”, and one a hitherto almost unknown format, the unaccompanied tenor solo,  signalled the breakdown of traditional formats and Rollins willingness to experiment with the assumed components of his art.

The year 1957, Rollins, at the age of 26,  was voted winner of Down Beat’s “New Star – tenor saxophone” award. Critic Whitney Balliett described Rollins tone as “bossy and demanding”, his chief influences, Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker:

He extracted the muscle from Hawkins’ tone and left the velvet, lopped off Hawkins’ famous vibrato, and sharpened Hawkins’ method of melodic playing by making it parodic.

He learned Parker’s teeming disregard of bar lines, Parker’s way with rhythm (the oddly placed notes, the silences, the avalanches of thirty-second notes), and Parker’s trick of mixing surreal melodic passages with tumbling bursts of improvisation.

And over all this he superimposed a unique and witty garrulity that made his immensely long solos seem, paradoxically, like endless strings of epigrams.

bored to beatnik

Parodic? Is that a word?  Garrulity? What does a string of epigrams sound like? Baffling. It may it pass muster among hipsters in Greenwich Village, but the Queens English it is not. It can’t be easy being a critic. Hold that – it’s pretty easy.

The real new star is of course the valve – based new microphone featured prominently on the cover.


Riverside UK 12-241 white label twin reels and mic, 1st UK release, pressing by Decca, New Jersey Malden , 173 grams

Cover features the Neumann U47 microphone, one of the breakthoughs in audio sound recording quality






Collectors Corner



Collection of the late Brian Clark.

Rollins seems to me a bit like Art Blakey – you think may be you have all the Blakey/ Rollins you need, do you really need another? Yes, you need reminding that, however good every other tenor player is, Rollins is one of the true masters., a yardstick against which to judge the contribution of others.

11 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: The Sound of Sonny (1957) UK Riverside

  1. Pingback: Sonny Rollins - The Sound of Sonny - RVJ []

  2. I should go easy on the cheap jibes aimed at Whitney Balliett, if I were you. He was one of the most literate and sensitive of all jazz critics, and one of the few capable of using words to make his readers feel they were hearing the music.


    • While I would normally heartily cheer on the savaging of any music critic, I agree that Mr. Balliett, despite his superciliousness, was in earnest and perhaps ought to be spared your razor wit. Balliet would make my (very) short list of jazz critics actually worth reading alongside Nat Hentoff, Barry Ulanov and Eric Nisenson.


      • Cheap jibes ? In these times of recession we’ve all had to make cut backs. I can only apologise for any offence taken, I’m sure Mr Balliet’s heart is in the right place (if not always his lexicon. Parodic indeed!)


        • Yes, at some point we’ll be able to return to sumptuously expensive wit, of that I’m confident, and moreover this is the first place we shall flock to looking for it… But in the meantime I’m happy with the austerity version. Anyhow: “endless strings of epigrams….” I think I do see what WB means. Although Sonny’s gruff lyricism is (and became even more) imperious and commanding, because each phrase if so perfectly and logically shaped one feels as one is listening to a string of superbly turned epigrams, each complete unto itself, rather than mammoth, effortful solos. Not that WB needs a gloss from me, of course.

          I recently added THE BRIDGE and WAY OUT WEST (what a hip record WAY OUT WEST is!) without knowing that I needed them, but lack this one….


          • On jazz critics: people tend to forget we have some great writers in our national newspapers and that, in fact, being a jazz critic must be nigh-on impossible these days. Thanks to Richard Williams’s comment I have now found this wide-ranging blog which I didn’t know existed (I presume it’s the same man). John Fordham has also been writing very capably about jazz for many years – this is a nice resource and very interesting;
            There are some wonderful blogs, including this one, but we still need journalists.


  3. Love this record.

    Interestingly, I directly A:B play-compared an original US twin-reel mono pressing with an (early paste-on back) OJC pressing and they were not TOO very different. The original shaded it, but not by all that much. I’m sure there is a range of opinions on this board about OJC pressings, and I’m not presuming to defend them or any such thing (I think the early releases are a perfectly nice starting point for a reasonable price). I just happened to directly compare this particular record, and was pleasantly surprised at the small gap between them.


    • I agree with you Joe. I’ve had very good luck with the sound quality of OJC reissues. A great way to hear classic titles at a fraction of the cost of originals. Steve Hoffman himself commented on one of his forum threads saying he knew first hand the original OJC reissues from the 80s were sourced from original tapes.


    • Joe, I have this on a Japanese Riverside (Victor) pressing and I think it sounds great! I know that Japanese pressings are often said to be a bit brighter sounding, but this one I think (please someone correct me if I’m wrong) was from the mid-70s and didn’t seem overly bright to me. Someday I’ll hope to have it on an original white/blue but until that day my copy’ll suit me just fine.


  4. I’ve recently added Newk’s Time and Live at the Village Vanguard to my already pretty extensive Rollins collection, but as you suggest, if you’re tired of Sonny, you’re tired of jazz. And that would never do.


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