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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Sax Symbol

Proper Records PROPERBOX 124






1. I Know
2. Time On My Hands
3. Mambo Bounce
4. This Love Of Mine
5. Shadrack
6. On A Slow Boat To China
7. With A Song In My Heart
8. Scoops
9. Newk's Fadeaway
10. In A Sentimental Mood
11. The Stopper
12. Almost Like Being In Love
13. No Moe
14. Movin' Out
15. Swingin' For Bumsy
16. Silk 'n' Satin
17. Solid
18. I Want To Be Happy
19. The Way You Look Tonight

1. More Than You Know
2. There's No Business Like Show Business
3. Paradox
4. Raincheck
5. There Are Such Things
6. It's All Right With Me
7. I Feel A Song Coming On
8. Pent-Up House
9. Valse Hot
10. Kiss And Run
11. Count Your Blessings

1. My Reverie
2. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
3. Paul's Pal
4. When Your Lover Has Gone
5. Tenor Madness
6. You Don't Know What Love Is
7. St. Thomas
8. Strode Rode
9. Blue 7
10. Moritat
11. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face

1. The House I Live In
2. Bird Medley: I Remember You, My Melancholy Baby, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Star Eyes
3. B. Swift
4. My Ideal
5. Sonny Boy
6. Two Different Worlds
7. Ee-Ah
8. B. Quick
9. How Are Things In Glocca Morra

When Proper Records first started issuing their "Properboxes", jazz fans were understandably jubilant. Here were riches indeed: four CDs in a box for around £15. The format has slimmed down slightly, in that the box is thinner and the original jewel cases have been replaced with cardboard sleeves, but the jubilation continues. Properboxes continue to provide comprehensive coverage of the early work of many jazz masters – and still at a bargain price.

This boxed set is typical in allowing us to hear a generous amount (50 tracks in all) of tenor-saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ recordings from 1951 to 1956. Like other Properboxes, it contains a comprehensive booklet of notes by the tireless Joop Visser. Visser points out that Sonny Rollins started his musical career around the end of the bebop era, and you can certainly hear the influence of Charlie Parker on some early tracks here. The opening I Know (with Miles Davis playing minimal piano) shows that Sonny had already mastered the conventions of bebop. Yet the next eight tracks, recorded by a quartet including pianist Kenny Drew, prove that Sonny was already developing his own eclectic but very individual style. Time On My Hands has the warmth of tenorists like Ben Webster and Lester Young, while Mambo Bounce has the muscularity of the Texan tenor-saxists. These tracks also exhibit the rhythmic freedom which became a hallmark of Rollins’ playing. Increasingly he seems to step across bar-lines and breaks up sequences of eighth notes with unexpected grunts and spaces.

The other quality which this boxed set illustrates is Sonny’s melodic sense. Many solos are like a medley of tunes, as if his head is bursting with melodies eager to emerge, often as quotations or allusions. I cannot describe every track on this rich collection, but just sample I Remember You on the final CD for Sonny’s disregard of bar-lines and its cheeky quotation from Somewhere I’ll Find You. Also savour on this track Max Roach’s thrilling drumming, which spices up many tunes in this collection (for example, the breakneck It’s All Right With Me).

Other items worthy of particular note are three recordings from 1954 with pianist Thelonious Monk, breaking up the rhythm in characteristic style, and a 1956 session by a group which is basically the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet. Sonny Rollins works superbly with Clifford Brown and sometimes sounds as mellow as Stan Getz. And there are all five tracks from Sonny’s album Saxophone Colossus, including his most popular number, St Thomas, with Max Roach supplying the exotic drums. That album title summed up Sonny Rollins’ greatness – a greatness which, thankfully, we can still enjoy as the 77-year-old continues performing.

Tony Augarde


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