Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (1956) Prestige


Selection: Strode Rode (Rollins)


Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Tommy Flanagan (piano) Doug Watkins (bass) Max Roach (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 22, 1956


We have been flirting recently with big band, solo performance, new for old, avant gard, I thought it time we make space for some straight classic err, whatever you label Rollins. Ah yes, Jazz.

Difficult to think of anything to say anything that hasn’t already been said many times over by everyone else. So I bring you an album that needs no introduction…

The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow calls the album “arguably his finest all-around set”.[Author and musician Peter Niklas Wilson called it “another milestone of the Rollins discography, a recording repeatedly cited as Rollins’ chef d’oeuvre, and one of the classic jazz albums of all time”.

But then you knew that, didn’t you? (Chef Rollins?)

Vinyl: Prestige 7079 second issue NJ Fireworks label 156gm



At last were beginning to get something right. Not totally – we still have only the Bergenfield NJ “second” pressing

What came before was a very hissy 1963 gold label  issue PRLP 7326. Notice the frantic renumbering of the reissue – standard Prestige practice, unlike Blue Note. Mono switch on the phono amp does help to take the edge off the hiss, but you would still rather it was not there


There is something ironic about a “Gold Edition” pressed on recycled vinyl. Where to next Weinstock – The Platinum Edition, on  pressed on coarse grit sandpaper? Solution: simple! Upgrade. There are very few problems in life that money can’t solve, though often that merely exchanges one problem for another. How often do you see an affordable copy? Well, I was pleased to find the Bergenfield – as close as I can sensibly expect .


Not cheap, but not crippling.


Collectors Corner

colossus nyc labewlIts only an address, forcrissake!

What people value is their own business, but sometimes you have to say, how much pleasure can  an address give? Obviously quite a lot, to judge by the fist full of dollars thrust at the NYC first edition of Saxophone Colossus


colossus popsike


I feel pretty smug with my Bergenfield, but how long that lasts may depend on your answer to a quick “Ownership Poll”.

Question: Which editions  of Saxophone Colossus do you currently own at least one copy of? Any you’ve sold in the past don’t count it. Has to be on your shelf right now.

I just have to know. May be you don’t have a copy (and you call yourself a Jazz Collector?) but if its true, own up. If it’s the Evil Silver Disk, don’t worry, you are among friends (snigger). If you had it and sold it to one of those above, congratulations on the good investment. Now place a thousand dollar bill on your turntable and tell me if it sounds as good.

Usual rules: anything vaguely related to this topic, comments welcome.


A quick look at Popsike revealed the alternative covers of Rollins Saxophone Colossus 1st European releases. Only Metronome were faithful to the original design.


And such a great design, how could they better it?  I award Denmark the maximum ten points in this Eurovision Contest. Strangely, the French felt they needed to translate the title, but not the Italians. Il Colosso di Sassofoni  doesn’t really add a lot. May be the French were trying to make a point.


40 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (1956) Prestige

  1. Post revival. A lot of people have been posting/talking about this album of late in the Instagram world. This NJ copy of yours sounds great. I’m curious about your gold label copy, did it have RVG in the dead wax? Just found a NM gold label (mono) copy made from original RVG metalwork and it really sings…you can hear it on my blog:

    Also, Instagram user jrock1675 has an unreal collection, and he seems to know everything there is about vintage pressings of this album. He has noticed that there are two different blue tints of jackets and two different matrices for NYC pressings. According to him, it sounds like first first pressings should be flat edge and second NYC’s have a “slightly raised lip”?

    Dott if you’re listening I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. 🙂

    • Nice pickup on the gold label copy! I had one that was plagued with noise from bad vinyl formulation but the RVG mastering sounded great.

      I’ve always wondered if the more “greenish” tint found on the earlier jackets was a result of yellowing of the lamination (yellow + blue = green).

    • my copy is blue, definetly, looks flat edge with edges that become thinner and sharp.matrix are:
      side one: RVG, PRLP-7079-A, AB hand ectched; there’s a C after RVG, machine stamped at 90°
      side two: RVG, PRLP-7079-B, AB hand ectched; there’s an E after RVG, machine stamped at 90°
      jrock1675’s collection is monstrous: he helped me providing many labels for my Blue Note Illustrated.
      interesting (and interested) in Aaron’s hypothesis in colour changing…

      • Interestingly, jrock’s “flat edge” copy has “B” on one side and “C” on the other. His “raised lip” copy has “A” on both sides…??? Normally I would conclude that these are stamper numbers and that the “A” copy was first, but the flat edge on the B/C copy is confusing. Maybe Abbey ran two presses at once and had one machine fitted for flat edge and another for raised lip???

        I have to assume that there is some sort of sequential logic to the lettering. I have two NYC copies in my possession at the moment, both of which probably never received a repress, and both have “A’s” on both sides.

  2. I have no idea about collecting, i just got this collection from a friend .. among some others, i now own the 1st NYC pressing. I wouldnt know without this page. Thanks alot! I was shocked since i am a profesional jazzbassist and wanted to listen to those LPs. Now i will have fear to brake them.. damn.

  3. Man after listening to Volume 1 I’m beginning to think the Numark, ehhh, sucks. Where’s the bass? I have a handful of genuine RVG LPs from the mono era and none sound so tinny, even when they are beat up.

    Anyway, for years the one to beat as far as reissues was the DCC–I actually find the DCC CD preferable. Typical of Hoffman, it has more bass and cooler presence region. I’d love to hear what the real Prestige sounds like. Can’t you get a little Zoom H2 or similar for a few bucks and hook it into your tape outs? Those things aren’t great, but they capture 90% of the sound. This Numark thing sounds like more like 20% IMHO.

    LJC: UPDATE – the Numark was duly ditched and for about the last five or six years everything is sourced through the tape-out of the valve preamp, into a DAC and MP3 at 320kbps with Audacityn which is the highest quality the WordPress player supports.

  4. Hello. Do any of you know if the Danish Metronome pressing (Record nr. Prestige 7079) should have the RVG stamp or was it different? If not… does that mean they did their own mastering/cutting and changed the sound? I’m considering buying the danish press as I don’t want to spend the money on a US orig. Many thanks for any info.

  5. Found a copy of my favorite album at a car boot this year ….. pretty poor 1st press with no cover . £1 . Aside from the crackles and pops it sounds pretty damn good…..

  6. Congrats on the find LJC! I, however, am not a huge fan of this session (despite the overwhelmingly unanimous praise of it) so I don’t think I’ll ever be pursuing a vintage copy of it…but I will say I love Roach’s solo on Blue 7!

  7. so some 23 to 24% of the voters have an original NYC, N.J. or first European issue. About as many as those having this album on CD. I don’t know what conclusion to draw from these data.
    I am sure some voters casted double/triple or quadruple votes (I am one of them)

  8. I have the 7326 Prestige made by Fantasy on the Green label. Bought a NM/possibly unplayed copy a while back for I believe a whopping $6 at a store in Maine. It is in stereo and sounds better than I thought it would – it’s nice to have low expectations sometimes. It play quiet with true analog spirit. Playing it right now actually and Sonny sounds like he may just be right over yonder in the living room. Vinyl is medium weight. I won’t go out of my way to upgrade, but if I come across a First or Second pressing original Prestige for cheap (ha!) then I’d probably still grab it.

    • I have a theory.

      I have noticed that when a recording is exceptionally strong – hear those cymbal strikes on the opening of Strode Rode – reissues down the line retain that excitement. It’s as though it is really difficult to make a bad transfer of Saxophone Colossus. I have several of those Prestige/Fantasy Greens that likewise defy expectations. However I wager if you pit that Green Prestige against the original, the original readopts its commanding superiority. Sometimes, you find an exceptional vin ordinaire. But it is the exception.

      • I can see that. It’s also possible that there may have been a hint of respect for such revered recordings from even those in the transfer booths making the reissues. Something like “we better not mess this up!” may enter their minds. You never know!

        • David, I remember taping “Blue Seven” from the radio years ago, and being struck by something that sounded like real stereo. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t. Could have been the version you own.

      • Just put it on to check and it almost seems like mono on the speakers with something a bit different though. When I flip the mono switch on my pre-amp however it noticeably changes the sound. Perhaps it was rechanneled somehow or other.

        • Have the green label Fantasy as well, quite sure it is stereo – maybe one of those ‘rechanneled for stereo’ remixing jobs. Lately got a mono Japanese pressing as an upgrade but found out i prefer the stereo version…huh !

    • I hadn’t posted a picture of the Esquire, just three flavours of Prestige. I have never managed to win the Esquire release, because its reputation is that it is superior to the NY pressing, so many collectors with insider knowledge chase it. I have added a postscript at the foot of the post illustrating all the European 1st Editions I could find, including the Esquire Is yours different to that? Its only had one cover to my knowledge.

      • I never came across another Esquire cover than the one shown by LJC. The postscript is very interesting. I had never seen the Italian issue. Not a lot of fantasy for the sleeve design, I am afraid.
        I would like to add that the Metronome Prestige LP albums were made in Denmark by Metronome Records A/S (not in Sweden). The Metronome EP albums, on the contrary, were “Made in Sweden for Metronome Records New York USA”, as the labels say.

  9. I have an NYC copy of the cover. A shop in my area got in a big jazz score of mostly poor condition records…but they were super cheap, so it was worth a look. As I flipped through, I found the cover for Saxophone Colossus and silently gasped. Price was $10. The record inside was…a Blue Note. But an original with ear – Sonny Rollins Vol. 2, 47 West 63rd labels, deep groove, can’t remember if there was R/INC. I bought it anyway because it was in VG condition. Someday I’ll find the cover for the record I actually own…until then who needs a cover for Saxophone Colossus?

      • I can’t say that my cover is in amazing shape but I’m sure it would be desirable to someone who is missing theirs. Are you located in the United States? I’m not sure I’d be willing to ship it elsewhere.

  10. On the poll I answered OJC, but it’s not quite that easy as it is a 180g copy pressed for Analogue Productions from the DCC stampers with OJC catalog numbers. Simple right? I had a Japanese copy, which of course was pressed on silent vinyl, but the tone was very nasally and pinched so I tried one of the gold label Prestiges, and like yours it was terribly hissy. Great tone but the surface noise was a deal breaker so lastly ended up with this copy for $25 which has great tone, silent vinyl and correct cover image. Still, I would much prefer an RVG mastered copy with a yellow label on my shelf.

  11. My copy is a German reissue on a bright green Prestige label, similar to the gold label one you have depicted above. Congrats with the Bergenfield, ’cause it may not be “the” address, but still that label looks a Prestige as possible to me 😉

  12. Rest assured, LJC, there are no skips in the rip. At least what I understand by a skip, which would be a 1,81 sec drop-out, for this is the time an LP takes for one revolution. All the notes are there, and they match both the CD version and the LP version I own. (Still I would appreciate if you could point your finger at any critical spots in your recording. Just joking.) Needless to say, this is a lovely copy of ONE OF THE GREATEST JAZZ RECORDS EVER MADE.

      • There you go, LJC. Find ’em, buy ’em, clean ’em, play ’em, photograph ’em, rip ’em, write about ’em — and please buy a stopwatch so that you can inform your readers with a degree of accuracy regarding skips etc. I thank you 🙂

  13. Congrats on this new purchase. Intersting quiz, we need more respondents though to have a representative view. The European first pressings are limited to Barclay 84 084, Esquire 32-045, Music Depositato LPM 2048 and Metronome 7079. Dutch Artone issued some Prestige titles in the mid-sixties with girly covers in heavy plastic. They are definitely no first European pressings.

    • Your knowledge exceeds mine Rudolf – by a rather large margin (but I’m catching up!). I have two Artone’s and girly cover about says it- “Liner Design by Funckler Records”. They do however bear the hallmarks of US stampers, complete with Prestige Matrix and RVG stamp, in the same fashion as those Esquires and Metronomes, so I assumed they were same family. Originating from an RVG master gives them just a little cachet, no? However on closer examination the Artone stamper source appears to be the second issue Prestige – example here of Dolphy’s Outward Bound on Esquire and Artone

      I have amended the Poll answers to expunge them from the European 1st list.

      Check back on the poll numbers in a few days. When I last looked, the Evil Silver Disk was riding high.

      • when these Funcker Records appeared in the bins in the late sixties, they were budget-priced. Something like fl 12,90 or fl 13,90, whereas regular US imports would cost fl 18,00. But the presentation was shabby, and, having the originals, I never cared to buy them. This being said, they may have had all the particulars to qualify as original Dutch Prestige. Only they were issued almost a decade later than their US counterparts.
        I have noticed your progress: starting with a gold label re-issue and a cover photo of Sonny, which in itself is an anachronism, you moved over to a French Stereo Universelle, in order to end your race with an authentic N.J. pressing. I think that your parcours is quite honourable. The last jump, for me at least, would be too high. These over 2K figures for a NYC pressing look outrageous. But the market is always right.

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