Sonny Rollins: Plus Four (1956) Esquire


Selection 1: Pent Up House

. . .

Selection 2: Kiss and Run

. . .


Clifford Brown (trumpet) Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Richie Powell (piano) George Morrow (bass) Max Roach (drums) recorded NYC, March 22, 1956


The attraction (and high price) of this record is down to it being the last appearance of Clifford Brown and Ritchie Powell before falling victim to an all too-frequent fatal car accident, something which also deprived us of Scott Lafaro, and no doubt many others. It is a reminder that jazz musicians spent a lot of time on the road and therefore uniquely exposed to the hazards of motoring in America’s  ’50’s car owning democracy, in which any idiot could afford a car, and probably did, jug of whisky in hand. An rare online review at Discogs seemed to sum up everything I would have said, so I’ll save calories and repeat it here:

Recorded precisely three months to the day before the seminal “Colossus”, on a year when the prolific Rollins put down to tape enough material to fill five albums under his name, “Plus Four” could eventually be considered a risky artistic move, in that by using exactly the same personnel he had been working with for some months in the Clifford Brown & Max Roach group, Rollins might have ended up with a final product that didn’t differ much from his employers sonority; but although he  couldn’t do anything to prevent the album from being the last recording where Brown and pianist Richie Powell participated before their fatal car-crash, he did manage to give his personal imprint to the album.

One decisive factor was the inclusion of two recently self-penned themes: “Valse Hot”, admittedly considered one of the 1st experiments with the popular ternary beat in a Jazz context, and the engaging closer “Pent-Up House”; the former, although its head may sound like a silly, marching-waltz, and goes into a somewhat lukewarm mood when the rhythm section is on its own, shows Rollins and Clifford Brown reworking the between solos reinstated theme, both with tender lyricism and adventurous emotion; the latter suffers from no such ailments, and Brown who opens the soloing ball seems to appreciate it particularly, embracing the changes with explicit desire and injecting some bursts of passion; Rollins treads on objectively and measuring his words, and Powell is both sensitive and fluid as George Morrow keeps a monstrous bass pulse and Max Roach waits for the final part to joyfully trade fours with the horns and do some irreprehensible solo work. ….All in all another steady step up the colossal staircase…

Vinyl: Esquire 32-025 1st UK release of PRLP 7038 somewhere around 1956-7

Also reissued at other times  under the eponymous title “Three Giants”. Obviously poor George Morrow didn’t earn the soubriquet “Giant”, or Ritchie Powell. It’s an Abbey Manufacturing master (AB)

Rollins-plus-4--backcover-1800-LJC Collectors Corner

Blogging’s been a little light of late, no excuse really, but a complete lack of incoming Ebay wins, a laptop that has now spent four weeks of its short  life under warranty repairs, and a major hifi upgrade. I know that gets no sympathy, but I’ve been busy. Normal service will be resumed – shortly. The laptop is back and stable for the first time, the new valve-based pre-amplifier is installed  and running in – and already sounds stunning, and who knows, may be this weekend we get lucky on Ebay

. ebaywatchwithLJC

Not like last weekend, when a dealer   u***i (4020) was out in force plundering auctions in UK, Germany, France and  Italy, scooping everything with XXL bids, including these three Blue Notes I had eyes on: TomCan-newks1 TomCan-Mobley SStn1 TomCan-Hancock MV1u***i (4020), who has stolen countless auction I had what I thought were realistic bids – though apparently not enough.  The competing bidders here are no lightweights – scores in the range 400-800. A score over 4,000 is a dealer LJC, wrong again.

UPDATE:  March 25, 2014 “u***i” reveals themselves at JazzCollector as”Caroline” :

Caroline says: “OK. So I am going to wade in here. I’m the purchaser of the Mobley 1568 New York 23”

Mobley 1568 bids Capture

She is a collector with a score of over 4,000 – I assume all records as her 30 day bid history shows no other interests. Her score has increased from 4020 to 4034 in six weeks. I assume she is American, but unusually for an American, she bids a lot on European Ebay sites and sellers. u 3star i history Capture She reveals more to the assembled JazzCollector followers::

I collect Blue Note. A solid 1568 original first press New York 23 is one of the only albums from the entire 1500 series that I didn’t have one of yet. I have all the others (you mention) in NM or better (both cover + album) and in some cases, I have duplicates (or triplicates). This 1568 was just filling a rare empty slot in my collection…

You got that? “duplicates and triplicates.” and a rare empty slot…

… “I am a completist. This collection started out as my fathers (both he and I played – Dad played tenor sax, I play piano). It was something we shared, just the two of us, until his sudden and premature death four years ago. These albums and music are not ‘mine’, they are ‘ours’…. My father (who was involved in the recording business) …”

A completist by her own admission, who has doubles and triples of some titles. There are only 800 titles in the Blue Note catalogue so that score of 4,000 records on Ebay is way in excess of “topping up” an already existing collection of Blue Notes, even after allowing for mono and stereo editions. Who would have thought it.  A lady who likes to shop – for Blue Notes – which she does by placing XXXL snipes, ensuring a winner every time. She clearly likes to win, and in consequence, everyone else loses. Certainly an unexpected explanation for a string of losses by LJC.          

17 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: Plus Four (1956) Esquire

  1. There’s a short track without Brown, “Count your Blessings” – another example of Rollins; ability to find tunes not usually recorded by jazz musicians – and it’s a great track.

  2. Have this on the evil silver disk; one from the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Series and it’s an absolute smash of an album 🙂

  3. I was interested in buying a copy of this Sonny sometime ago, but got distracted. This blog has me back in the hunt. However, the only reasonably priced copy currently selling in the States is listed for $76 on Ebay, and it is a reissued 45rpm AcousTech (the seller just lower the price from $99). I am also watching an Esquire copy on Ebay and located in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. The current bid is $57US with 4 days left. I don’t expect to win that one, but will keep watching. I don’t have any Esquire copies of anything in my collection, so this would be a real catch. BTW, if anyone is interested, a new OJC reissue is scheduled for release at several of the online dealers here in the States at an asking price of ~ $15 – 17US. I currently have a CD of the recording, so I am not interested. I don’t personally consider OJC copies of anything a collectible item, but like a CD copy, they will do in a pinch.

  4. Ouch – they almost make the £443 winning bid I saw for a sealed Art Pepper meets.. seem a bargain? Oh it is also one of those last minute unsporting bids as well. Glad they are not bidding on the records I am after……

    • 3**3 keeps winning a lot of the auctions I’m watching. Interesting as they have no feedback and appear to have spent more than $2,000 in the last couple of days.

  5. A truly great record which is up there with Colossus for me. I have been looking for the Esquire at a reasonable price but it always evades me so I will have to make do with my Transatlantic reissue. Very unsatisfactory cover though with Rollins in a later guise – mohican – and the title 3 Giants!. Thankfully the music sounds pretty good considering they used copy tapes.

  6. This is a great album. I’ve been puzzled that the US originals for this one don’t fetch that much. Time permitting I will do a shootout between the George Horn mastered OJC and AP 45 rpm reissue.

  7. LJC, I’m glad to hear that the new valve-based pre-amp is working well. Shame about the laptop. I can sell you a valve-based one if you wish and then you can get back into regular posting using an all analogue production chain.

  8. Brilliant record everyone should own. Brownie is dynamite. I have two, with both the “first” covers. I actually (slightly) prefer the Ried Miles. Anyway, enjoy this beauty!

  9. Is that really true? How much more could a Maiden Voyage be sold for?Makes me feel great about the beautiful mint copy (stereo only- but with ear), for $50.

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