Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness

Prestige/RVG Masters 088072300446    ****
Rollins (ts), Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b), Philly Joe Jones (d) and John Coltrane (ts). Rec. 1956

This latest resurfacing of Tenor Madness benefits from the Van Gelder clean-up on the sound front, of course, but otherwise is unchanged from the format of its original vinyl release. Coltrane appears on one track only, the 12-minute title track, and in a way it’s a shame the meeting of the two great didn’t happen a year later, for Coltrane would then have been as mature in his playing as Rollins and the contrasts would have been even more fascinating. Still, this is what we’ve got and no amount of willing it will change that fact.
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness
That said, what we have is pretty enjoyable, and the music without Coltrane is very fine Rollins indeed, the group and the soloist driven on superbly by Philly Joe Jones on drums not long before he fell out irreconcilably with Prestige boss Bob Weinstock and never did another sideman session for the label. ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’, the last track, sums up everything Rollins had to offer at this stage of his career, from the humour to the rhythmic drive and the non-stop invention on unusual material. Top stuff, so don’t miss it if you’ve never had it in yours ears before now.

Keith Shadwick