You, me, the music, and me.

Friday, December 02, 2005


RCA Victor LPM-2612 (1962)

How could I possibly add anything more to the accolades that have been heaped upon tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins? A musician's musician and an improviser's improviser, he is famous for his endless imagination which manifests itself in solos that can last for hours without one musical idea or riff being repeated. At 75, he shows no sign of slowing down and continues to tour and record regularly.

Our Man in Jazz was recorded live at the Village Gate in New York City with a group consisting of Rollins' longtime bassist Bob Cranshaw and two musicians frequently associated with avant-garde kingpin Ornette Coleman, cornetist Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins. Ornette's influence is heavy on this album; this is some of the freest jazz that Rollins had ever played before or since. The 25-minute "Oleo" starts off with a jabbing duet between Rollins and Cherry before a brief statement of the theme, then the harmony is all but abandoned as the group trades off furiously paced solos and duets. Cherry is in especially fine form, peeling off dizzying blasts of high notes a la Dizzy Gillespie; this may be his most inspired playing on record. "Dearly Beloved" contains rapid-fire exchanges of ideas and drastic shifts in tempo that seem to be communicated telepathically between the musicians, and "Doxy", while more conventially swinging than the other pieces, contains some great "out" soloing from Cherry and Rollins.

Our Man in Jazz is a perfect intro to free-form jazz for those more accustomed to traditional sounds; it's "inside" enough for conservative tastes, yet won't disappoint anyone looking for unconventiality. For fans of Sonny Rollins (and for those who aren't yet), it's an overlooked but essential gem in his catalogue of recordings.


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