Personnel: Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Sonny Rollins; Earl Coleman (vocals); Clifford Brown (trumpet); John Richard Lewis, Ray Bryant, Red Garland (piano); Milt Jackson (vibraphone); George Morrow (bass instrument); Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones (drums); John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Richie Powell, Thelonious Monk, Tommy Flanagan (piano); Art Blakey (drums); The Modern Jazz Quartet.
Audio Remasterer: Joe Tarantino.
Liner Note Author: Ira Gitler.
Recording information: Apex Studios, New York, NY (12/17/1951-12/07/1956); Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack, NJ (12/17/1951-12/07/1956); WOR STudios, New York, NY (12/17/1951-12/07/1956).
Photographer: Don Schlitten.
Though most everything Sonny Rollins recorded for Prestige between 1951 and 1956 is worth owning (those willing to take the plunge should purchase his COMPLETE PRESTIGE RECORDINGS), this 10-song collection is a fine introduction. In addition to representing his full, lush tone and frontal attack, these tracks display Rollins's kinetic rhythmic approach and brilliant harmonic conception; he often seems to be deconstructing tunes from the inside out. His signature tune, "St. Thomas," with its memorable theme and snaking lead lines (not to mention Max Roach's infectious, Calypso-flavored polyrhythms), kicks off the disc in high gear.
Rollins's Prestige dates were especially notable for their personnel, and this set does not disappoint on that count. Thelonious Monk sits in on a lovely reading of "More Than You Know," Clifford Brown contributes his legendary trumpet chops to "I Feel a Song Coming On," and two cuts from Rollins's collaboration with the Modern Jazz Quartet showcase Milt Jackson's shimmering vibraphone. The set closes with "Tenor Madness," which features Rollins going toe-to-toe with John Coltrane, backed by the rhythm section of Miles Davis's first quintet, and the results are nothing less than incendiary. This is a superb, if brief, overview of the saxophone giant's early work.