TONE Audio asked me for a list of albums that initially hooked me on jazz. During the next few weeks, I’m going to share 10 yesteryear titles that I always recommend, and frequently return to.
Sonny Rollins Vol. 2 (Blue Note)
He’d been working for the Prestige label for five or six years, earning himself the nom de tenor, “Saxophone Colossus.” But just before Christmas 1956, Rollins jumped to Blue Note, the era’s most prestigious jazz imprint. The unbounded enthusiasm of his past work blended with an always-developing improvisational expertise, and a fertile new phase began. The music seemed even more wise, engaging, and modern than it had a mere six months prior. On his first date his front-line foil was trumpeter Donald Byrd, and together they cut hip originals like “Plain Jane” and the showtune nugget “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” Yep, Sonny Rollins was a very cool album. Then the saxophonist returned to the studio with trombonist JJ Johnson and pianist Thelonious Monk by his side for the sessions that became Vol. 2, and he leveled up again. And how. Everything jumps on this one, with “Why Don’t I” setting the effervescent tone as the opener. At his up-tempo best, Rollins is a guy who explodes with idea after idea – following these horn lines just might increase your IQ. Here, on everything from “Wail March” to “You Stepped Out of A Dream,” he’s flying high, spreading cheer, and sweeping everyone along with him. Reacting to Art Blakey’s press rolls, negotiating the Rubic’s Cube of Monk’s “Mysterioso”; what can you say about this stuff? Rapture awaits around each corner of Vol. 2.