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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Prestige 0888072312234




1. There's No Business Like Show Business
2. Paradox
3. Raincheck
4. There Are Such Things
5. It's All Right With Me

Sonny Rollins - Tenor sax
Ray Bryant - Piano
George Morrow - Bass
Max Roach - Drums

1955 was an important year for Sonny Rollins. He was recovering from his drug habit and, in December, he recorded this fine album as well as joining the great quintet led by Max Roach and Clifford Brown. It was the beginning of one of Sonny's many golden ages, which produced numerous classic recordings, such as the four I reviewed here recently.

This CD is another of Rudy Van Gelder's remasterings of Prestige albums, and the sound is better than on several such CDs. Above all, this is a high-powered session on which Rollins blows for all he is worth, and Max Roach drums up a storm. There is only one ballad but four faster numbers which give the musicians a chance to let their hair down, with some splendid interplay between Rollins and Roach. As an example, listen to the duet between the two in Raincheck, when the pianist and bassist lay out to leave the pair to spark off one another.

The album opens with Irving Berlin's There's No Business Like Show Business: a typically startling Rollins choice of a song which is seldom used as a vehicle by other jazz musicians. It steams along at a speedy tempo, with George Morrow's sturdy bass tethering the tune to the ground while Max Roach adds gutsy punctuations and Rollins works all kinds of wonders with what might seem an unpromising chord sequence. He keeps referring back to the tune but he also creates an astonishing rain of notes which anticipates John Coltrane's "sheets of sound". By contrast, Ray Bryant's bebop piano solo seems restrained but things soon warm up again when Max Roach solos with some of his trademark patterns.

Sonny's own composition Paradox is slightly slower but still packs a punch. Rollins' solo exhibits his blues roots. Once again, Bryant's piano solo calms things down and Roach's drum solo shakes them up again. Billy Strayhorn's Raincheck is taken at a fair lick, opening with more interchanges between Rollins and Roach. The only ballad is There Are Such Things (an early hit for Frank Sinatra when he sang with Tommy Dorsey), which Sonny delivers with his unique mixture of sensitivity and power. Ray Bryant and George Morrow provide stylish solos before Sonny takes the tune out with a poetic extended coda which is almost a song in itself.

The quartet returns to up-tempo for the closing It's All Right With Me, which is even more of a storming performance from Rollins than the other tracks. Max Roach responds with equal vigour as they exchange fours. Despite its short playing-time (33 minutes), this is as exciting an album as you'll hear anywhere.

Tony Augarde

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