Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (1956) Esquire


Selection: Strode Rode (Esquire press from original Prestige metal (AB))


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


I guess there are may be three records every jazz collector must own as good a copy as they can  find and afford: Coltrane’s Blue Train, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, and Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus. No doubt you can name a few more, but to my reckoning they are the must-haves. The UK CBS release of KOB is a non-starter compared with the Columbia six-eye. With Blue Train  you have no option but Blue Note. The Rollins, however, does offer an alternative candidate: UK Esquire.

European or US pressing?

Let me draw on my namesake and original inspiration, Jazz Collector:, who wrote just over a year ago about the “European edition” of Saxophone Colossus.

“Let’s catch up on some more jazz vinyl we’ve been watching on eBay, starting with: Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins, Esquire 32-045. This was an original UK pressing listed in M- condition for the record and between VG++ and M- for the cover.


It sold for $358. It seems that the prices for these original European pressings have been getting higher and higher in recent years. I imagine, for many collectors, these would represent second copies, along with the original U.S. versions? Or perhaps for newer collectors, this record at $358 is a lot more affordable than a U.S. original at $2,000?


From a listening perspective, I don’t think there is a major difference between the U.S. and U.K. pressings and, as we’ve seen, some of our readers prefer the sound of the European pressings”

As noted in some of our recent posts, some of us prefer to avoid the risk of Prestige flirtation with recycled vinyl too. My later Prestige gold label hisses throughout, though this second pressing has no problems in that department. Jazz Collector diplomatically skirts around the “which is better?” question, and throws in a “some people say” line which acknowledges the debate without taking sides, always a safe option.

Fearlessly, I’m going for broke. You decide.

Soundcheck: previously posted US second issue on original Prestige, same track, though there may be differences due to the difference in turntable in use at the time of the earlier rip. I’ll replace with like for like in the next few weeks, but for now, take it as it comes.


Selection: Strode Rode (Prestige US 2nd issue)


Esquire Vinyl

The etchings on the Esquire are fiendishly difficult to pull out.  They are all there – RVG by hand, Abbey Manufacturing AB, original Prestige matrix PRLP 7079 A and B, but only the stamped elements  – arrow shape on side one around six o’clock, and the stamper or mother number “1” at 3 o’clock –  catch the light. Anyone knows what the arrow stamp signifies, share your knowledge.  The hand etchings are shallow and  they stubbornly refuse to shine. None of this affects the groove pressing, which is bold and bright as you would expect from this superior recording.



Collectors Corner

Five years. That’s about the time I have waited patiently bidding on copies of the Esquire edition of Rollins Saxophone Colossus, losing every time. On this occasion it went my way, and thankfully by a comfortable margin less than my actual bid. Sometimes virtue is rewarded.

Poll: Which Pressing?

Let’s put Jazz Collector to the test.Sneaky.We haven’t had a poll for a while, so I’d be interested in the wisdom of crowds on the sound difference between the US 2nd press and European 1st 2nd press. I know the US cover is heaps better but put that to one side. Also any issues as to country of origin. Remember the Esquire is pressed with the same Abbey Manufacturing metalware as the Original first Prestige pressing.  Soundcheck the Esquire and the Prestige (headphones often the best listening medium) Any preference on your part, or nothing to choose between the two? Poll stays open for one week only. Have your say. (Could be worse, I could have mounted it as a blind trial. Next time I probably will)


Open Question, comment opportunity

Now, an open question, prompted by a conversation with my plumber, Jason. I had stuff belting out the hi-fi downstairs while he was working on the bathroom plumbing upstairs.  After each album he would politely ask: Who was that? I like that. Seems he knew his way around the genre a little, but says he was disappointed with his own efforts to choose the right records, not knowing what artists to look for, finding it all a bit too much.

I named three jazz albums that I think every modern jazz collector should own. As it happens he knew my three recommendations well, he’s not a complete beginner. The question is, aside from KOB, Blue Train and Saxophone Colossus, what else? I’ll offer you the chance to recommend five records to my plumber, who is a relative newcomer to jazz, who would like some pointers. The best record from five  artists who represent a significant and distinctive body of work,  rather than more of the same.

LJC Thinks some more

(In the event of wanting to put questions to my plumber, he’s not answering his phone right now, sorry)

And remember, as in life, there are no right answers, but there are plenty of wrong ones.


The floor is yours.

54 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (1956) Esquire

    • From limited experience I do not recommend Analogue Productions. Some people like them but I find them “bottox-finish”. This may be the exception, however I’ll stick with pressings from original metal.

      I find modern re-issues generally a disappointment when you pitch them against an original, which I have none a couple of dozen times. Unless you have done that comparison, there is no way to form a judgement on which sounds “better” to you.

      The only exception I have found is Music Matters 33, which I have found come close, though I generally prefer the original, which is not an option for many people.

  1. As a jazz DJ for 12 years, I was often asked for suggestions on where to start. These seem to open the Jazz door for new listeners:

    Miles: KOB
    Rollins: SC
    Monk: Monk’s Dream
    Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil
    Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver
    Oliver Nelson: Blues & the Abstract Truth
    Trane: Giant Steps
    Bill Evans: You Must Believe in Spring
    Grant Green: Idle Moments
    Joe Henderson: Page One
    Charlie Parker: The Genius of (Savoy)
    Mingus Ah Um
    Brubeck: Time Out

    • glad to see in a list of Giants, a seldom quoted one.
      maybe it’s the youngest among mine, recorded in 1977 but published in 1981, after Evans’ death.
      among the hundreds of his recordings, this Warner Bros trio, HS 3504, is a real masterpiece, cheap on the market, great in emotions.
      give it a try:

  2. Hello,

    I found recently a (first ?) french press of Sonny Rollins ‘s saxophone colossus.

    This is a Barclay “Le colosse du Saxophone” 84084 S with a J.P. Leloir photo on cover. I couldn’t find no date of this pressing but I think this is at the end of the 50ies maybe 1960….

    There is also RVG by hand, Abbey Manufacturing AB, original Prestige matrix PRLP 7079 A and B. Prestige Master is indicated on the label. There also stamped the “1” and the arrow you mentionned.
    Moreover there is two code number stamped, I think this is the Barclay’s reference.

    The cover is in flexible cardboard, not so beautiful as UK ou US pressing but the sound is excellent.

    I found it in a little record shop in Paris… it costs me €24….in excellent condition.

    For me, this is a complete rediscovering of this monument of jazz.

  3. I can hear absolutely no difference. I had a co-worker chose which one to play first and second so I could do it blindly, and I was convinced she had pressed play on the same file twice by accident.

    As a professional jazz heretic: I would say that, while excellent classics, none of those three records are what I would choose as my three mains. I think Miles did other Columbia albums with more fire and zest, and Coltrane’s Prestige and Impulse work run circles around this middle-year stuff. Rollins is simply not someone I idolize as others do. I know, I know. My favorite tend to be early Miles, Charlie Parker, Columbia-era Mingus, and the freedom gang.
    For the LJP (London Jazz Plumber) I recommend:

    1) John Coltrane – “A Love Supreme”
    2) Charles Mingus – “Mingus Ah Um”
    3) Kenny Burrell – “Introducing Kenny Burrell”
    4) Albert Ayler – “Spiritual Unity”
    5) John Handy – “Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival”

    • I liked your comments, Gregory. However, I think Coltrane’s Atlantic work is tough to beat, and even though I admit that it did take a while for me to warm up to Blue Train, I did, and at this point I’d say I like it just as much as his work with Miles on both Prestige and Columbia. I personally wouldn’t point someone in the direction of A Love Supreme as an introduction to Trane though, as what I’m hearing on that date is a highly evolved artist that may not be as easy to digest or understand as the Trane of 1960, for example, especially for a “novice”.

      • Eh, on second thought, the Trane of 1960 is pretty heavy too…come to think of it, when was Trane not heavy? I could stand to learn a thing or two here, so by all means people, feel free to school me. 🙂

        • Thanks, Rich!

          I have heard arguments like this a la A Love Supreme before and I think that, while well intentioned, they fail to take into account many things, and might even be a little snobby (but you know I love you, DG). I had heard tons of jazz of all stripes before any of it really took hold, and what took hold was not any “introductory” or “basic” class, but the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Baptizum”! That was my first love in jazz. The jazz door is in different places for different people. A Love Supreme is so far-reaching in its scopes, I would consider it a great introduction. Some would even say they could dance to it. Or other things. Not that I would know.

      • A Love Supreme was the first jazz LP I purchased about 8 years ago and was what sparked my obsession with jazz, and especially Coltrane. There are great Coltrane recordings both before and after A Love Supreme but this, for me, is THE essential Coltrane album. Blue Train is classic for sure, but it is a very Blue Note sounding album of which you could add many to the list. Perhaps taking one step back from A Love Supreme for a beginner would be Live At The Village Vanguard. This is probably the record in my collection I reach to most often.

        • Africa Brass was my first jazz record and A Love Supreme the second when I was 13. This sequence made ALS seem like easy listening. I had a harder time getting into Ellington and Parker at that age.

        • That’s funny because I think Village Vanguard is particularly heavy too! I know the Vanguard album is a classic but I actually prefer the Birdland album on Impulse.

          It’s all a matter of taste, of course. My comments about ALS are really just based on my own experience. When I first heard it, I felt pretty lost, but now that I feel like I understand it better I like it a lot more. But I did always like the mood and feeling of ALS. 🙂

          • Side 2 is a bit more heavy than Side 1 on Village Vanguard, but I think compared to Birdland it’s pretty tame, but you are right that it is a matter of taste and perception. Having just a 1972 red/black Impulse! copy of Birdland that doesn’t quite “speak” to me, it hasn’t received much play on my system. Maybe that will be my next focus for an upgrade.

          • Interesting set of observations. I firmly believe you learn as you listen. If you haven’t listened to a particular record for some time (who says they are innocent?) then your musical palate may well have altered as a result of all the other records you have listened to in that time, let alone improvements in the hi-fi system. Records have gone up and down in my estimation, my comfort zone has altered, re-listening is a good fact-check.

            There is a basic tennent here to my mind: there is no prize in consistency, and no shame in changing your opinion. Rather, the reverse. What I liked when I was thirteen and like to listen to today have some distance between them. Hank Marvin. The Shadows. Man of Mystery?

            It’s not Love Supreme is it?

  4. For your plumber:

    Sun Ra: Strange Strings
    Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity
    Peter Brotzman: Machine Gun
    John Coltrane: Ascension
    Last Exit: Last Exit

    Tell him not to come back until he’s studied each one of these recordings intently for a light introduction into the world of smooth jazz.

      • And if he’s had his fill of Jazz after these studies suggest some rock:

        A. Lou Reed ‘Metal Machine’
        B. Frank Zappa ‘Jazz from Hell’
        C. Captain Beefheart ‘Trout Mask Replica’
        D. Pere Ubu ‘New Picnic Time’
        E. The Fall ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’

        Try flushing after

        • Dear boukman, I don’t know if the beloved LJC would like to read something about Rock in his Jazz-Blog. But I can’t resist, because the following LPs do have strong jazz influence
          A. Deep Freeze Mice – My Geraniums Are Bulletproof
          B. Battered Ornaments – Art school dance
          C. Van der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
          D. Audience – Friends Friends Friends
          E. Red Noise – Sarcelles Locheres

  5. I will need to give this a closer listen, but surprisingly it sounds like the pressing quality is better on the US Prestige.

  6. What a wealth of beautiful music – I can’t resist adding:

    1) The Arrival Of Victor Feldman
    2) Seven Steps To Heaven
    3) The Hawk Flies High (Hawkins, J.J.Johnson, Idrees Sulieman…)
    4) Things Are Getting Better (Cannonball, Milt Jackson)
    5) Lush Life (Coltrane)

  7. Congrats on the score, LJC! I love hearing stories about patience with eBay paying off eventually.

    I actually couldn’t hear a whole lot of difference between the two pressings–did you use your cheaper turntable to record the Prestige drop?? And you should totally do blind tests in the future, that would be tons of fun!!

    Here’s my five introductory albums:

    Clifford Brown – Study in Brown
    Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off
    Horace Silver – Song for My Father
    Lee Morgan – Candy
    Thelonious Monk – Criss Cross

    I think all the dates above are relatively “digestible”, meaning the musical ideas don’t get too crazy, which I think it probably a good way to introduce someone to the genre.

  8. My current top 5:

    1. Mal Waldron – Left Alone (Bethlehem BCP 6045)
    2. Steve Lacy/Don Cherry – Evidence (New Jazz 8271)
    3. Charles Mingus – Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic 1237)
    4. Herbie Nichols – The Profetic Herbie Nichols I+II (Blue Note 5068/5069)
    5. Cecil Taylor – Looking Ahead (Contemporary M3562/LAC12216)

    I cheated a little by adding two Nichol’s but to me they are one connected album on two 10″ discs. All titles veer toward Avant Garde but are still firmly rooted in the traditions.

  9. Apart from the three you mention LJC, impeccable choices, I’d also throw into the mix:
    1 Ellington At Newport
    2 Charles Mingus, Let My Children Hear Music
    3 Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage
    4 Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz To Come
    5 Miles Davis, Tribute to Jack Johnson

    I baulked at including another Davis record, but the man’s career was so long, rich and varied I don’t think it can be avoided.

  10. I’d recommend

    Booker Ervin – That’s it
    Jackie Mclean – Destination out
    Yusef Lateef – Eastern sounds
    Charles Mingus -East coasting
    Max Roach -Parisian Sketches

  11. My recommendations:
    Art Blakey – Moanin’ / Blue Note 4003
    Tina Brooks – Complete Blue Note / Mosaic MR4-106
    Dexter Gordon – Go! / Blue Note 4112
    Jordan/Gilmore – Blowing in from Chicago / Blue Note 1549
    Horace Silver – Song for my father / Blue Note 4185
    And of course “Somethin’ Else” (already mentioned by dottorjazz)

    1. Mingus Ah Um
    2. Bill Evans – Portrait In Jazz
    3. Cannonball – Somethin’ Else
    4. Clifford Brown and Max Roach (Emarcy 36036)
    5. Horace Silver and and Jazz Messengers
  12. Your plumber may also like (on a ‘suck it and see basis’):-
    Green Street – Grant Green. Blue Note.
    This Is Our Music – Ornette Coleman. Atlantic.
    Cookin’ with The Miles Davis Quintet. Prestige.
    Boogie Woogie Classics – Albert Ammons Memorial Album. Blue Note.
    A Night At Birdland – he could cherry-pick his favourite soloists from Blakey, Brown, Donaldson, Silver, and then use this as an introduction to other recordings by these artists. Complete – on Blue Note

  13. The five titles I’d recommend for a new comer are:
    1. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else
    2. Dave Brubeck – Time Out
    3. Charles Mingus – Ah Um
    4. Stan Getz – Getz/Gilberto
    5. Grant Green – Idle Moments

  14. your plumber would get my recommendations as follows:
    -Arranged by Montrose, P.J. 1214 for Clifford Brown, Zoot Sims, Bob Gordon, Russ Freeman and Montrose himself (writing and soloist)
    -Lennie Niehaus Sextet, CR 3524 for Niehaus’ writing and superb Bill Perkins, Jimmy Giuffre, Shelley Manne
    -Lee and Warne, Atlantic 1217
    -Lee Morgan arr. Benny Golson, Blue Note 1557
    -Ornette Coleman, Atlantic 1327
    And as a bonus track, should he feel homesick, Waltz by Frédéric Chopin from the CR album “the Arrival of Victor Feldman”.

  15. The same question is frequently asked by my patients in my office where I’m used to have music on whenever I’m there.
    and the answer is simply impossible: musical tastes can be so different.
    I like Free Jazz, but it would be silly to recommend it to a newcomer.
    1) rookies:
    Bill Evans: Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Riverside 12-291
    Charles Mingus: Ah Um, Columbia 1370
    Art Pepper: Meets the Rhythmic Session, Contemporary 3532
    Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else, Blue Note 1595
    Miles Davis: ‘Round About Midnight, Columbia 949
    2) discriminate collectors:
    1) Warne Marsh: Jazz of two Cities, Imperial 9027
    2) Phineas Newborn: Here’s Phineas, Atlantic 1235
    3) Eddie Costa: The House of Blue Lights, Dot 3206
    4) Ted Brown: Free Wheeling, Vanguard 8515
    5) Art Ensemble of Chicago: People in Sorrow, Pathè 10523

    • I thought I knew them all – and then you come along with that Warne Marsh thing, Dottore! Sadly, my only source at the moment is Youtube. And much to my surprise, these 1956 tracks were recorded in stereo (anathema for you, if I remember correctly). Anyway – very, very good music it seems. Thank you.

      • anathema? ah, the session was recorded in stereo AND mono, I’ve got mono, of course.
        56-1003+ WARNE MARSH QUINTET. “Jazz Of Two Cities” and “Winds Of Marsh”
        ‘Radio Recorders’, Los Angeles, CA., Oct. 3 (IM-1159/62) & Oct.11 1956.(Prod. Albert Marx).

        Warne Marsh, Ted Brown, ts; Ronnie Ball, p; Ben Tucker, b; Jeff Morton, d.

        1 QUINTESSENCE IM-1159 mono + stereo release 4:13
        2 SMOG EYES IM-1160 mono + stereo release 3:32
        3-a LOVER MAN no number alt. take, unissued ?
        3-b LOVER MAN a.t. ‘out-take’ stereo release 4:25
        3-c LOVER MAN IM-1161 composite, mono release 4:27
        4-a EAR CONDITIONING no number alt. take, unissued ?
        4-b EAR CONDITIONING a.t. ‘out-take’ stereo release 5:12
        4-c EAR CONDITIONING IM-1162 composite, mono release 5:15
        5 DIXIE’S DILEMMA IM-1201 mono + stereo release 4:21
        6-a JAZZ OF TWO CITIES IM-1202 mono release 4:36
        6-b JAZZ OF TWO CITIES a.t. ‘out-take’ stereo release 4:33
        7-a I NEVER KNEW IM-1203 mono release 5:04
        7-b I NEVER KNEW a.t. ‘out-take’ stereo release 5:00
        8 THESE ARE THE THINGS I LOVE IM-1204 mono + stereo release 3:58

        Note-1: Ted Brown (Aug. 1993 / Nov. 2003):

        In the recording studio 2 sets of equipment were running, concurrently, for mono and stereo recording. The “stereo set'” was not intended for release because of the very few home-stereo equipment in use, and was stored as such.
        After recording alternate takes of (at least) 4 titles, the following was decided.
        A: Marsh preferred his solo of “4-a” ( Ear Conditioning, unissued.), and that part was spliced with “4-b” resulting in “4-c”. (This “4-c” becoming the ‘original’ mono release on : Imp LP-9027and its equivalents.).
        B: Ball preferred his solo of “3-a” (Lover Man, unissued), and that part was spliced with “3-b” resulting in composite “3-c”.( Also as previously mentioned for Imp LP-9027.).
        C: The takes numbered IM-1202 (item “6-a”) and IM-1203 (item “7-a”), were also chosen (unspliced !) for the original mono release on Imp LP-9027 together with items 1,2,5,8.
        D: The “stereo-set”, containing the original stereo recordings of items 1,2,5,8, and the “out-takes” 3-b, 4-b, 6-b, and 7-b was issued later by Imperial as Imp (S)LP-12013.
        E: The equivalent of this “stereo-set” (Imp (S)LP-12013) is released on CD in 1993 by Toshiba-EMI-Liberty numbered TOCJ-5444.

        Note-2: Matrix numbers assigned by Imperial label. (NB.. This numbering system gives the impression that the unissued alternative takes were not numbered, and that IM-1161 and 1162 must belong to “3-c” and ‘4-c”, the composites for the original mono release).

        Note-3: Item -h (These Are The Things I Love) also titled “Tchaikovsky’s Opus 42, 3rd Movement”.

        Note-4: The -small- differences in duration are rather due to playing- than recording equipment.

        1,2,3-c,4-c,5,6-a,7-a,8 R Blue Note(F) BNP-25106 : Imperial. LP-9027 : Liberty(J) LR-8055 : London(E) P-15080
        1,2,3-b,4-b,5,6-b,7-b,8 R Imperial (S)LP-12013 – as “Winds Of Marsh”
        1,2,3-b,4-b,5,6-b,7-b,8 CD Liberty TOCJ-5444
        1,2,3-b,4-b,5,6-a,b,7-a,b,8 CD Fresh Sound FSR-CD 342 (2 CD’s) / tracks 13 & 14 are 6-a & 7-a
        all but 3-a, 4-a (both uniss.) CD Cap CDP 7243 8 52771.
        1 & 4c CD Fresh Sound FRCD-570

  16. congratulations on this new acquisition. Nota bene: the Esquire is also a second pressing (37/9 1/2 price and without broad spine), so the comparison is even more equitable.

    • Thank you for spotting that, of all people, I should have known!

      The seller provided a photo of only the front cover, I should have asked about the back cover, but questions can alert the seller or other buyers to something that can and often does work against you. One time, I asked a question that alerted the seller they had something more valuable than they thought, and it was immediately withdrawn from auction!

      Possibly this seller had no idea about there being a 1st and 2nd pressing, indicated by the back cover. The seller description:

      “Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus Esquire LP 32-045. Scarce Original UK Release

      Misrepresentation? Technically, yes! It cost less than half the last copy I lost bidding on, so in that respect I am content

      As regards 1st and 2nd Esquire pressings, the same stampers may been put back into service for a further pressing run, one can not rule out the suspicion they will exhibit more progressive stamper wear than the first run. Of course, they could have been sent another set of stampers. This is in the realm of the known unknowns.

      Fortunately, I am not fastidious as regards “1st pressing status”. Mostly.

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