Rollins Plays for Bird [Bonus Tracks]by Sonny Rollins
As the tenor sax is not in the same key as an alto, Sonny Rollins would have to transpose a lot of music to take a tribute to Charlie Parker to a high level. Instead Rollins has chosen standards associated with Parker, and recorded them within a year after Bird's passing. This idea poses some peculiar challenges, added on to the fact that the quintet of Rollins starts the proceedings with a 27-minute medley of seven tunes seamlessly stitched together. Pianist Wade Legge, an unsung hero of jazz in the '50s for sure, plays some wonderful music here, and laces the grooves of the tunes together, while bassist George Morrow and the always exceptional drummer Max Roach keep things moving forward. Even more unusual is that trumpeter Kenny Dorham is in many instances invisible on the date, playing less than a cursory role to Rollins. Dorham rarely plays together with him, and is much more separate than equal, which in many regards is a shame. Considering how well Dorham and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson worked as a tandem, one wonders why this happened. The music certainly has its moments, as on the inexhaustible medley. Rollins plays the melody on alternating songs "I Remember You" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me," Dorham has at it for "My Melancholy Baby" and "Just Friends," with Legge getting his two cents in on trio only versions of "Old Folks" and "My Little Suede Shoes." Finally the whole band joins in on the ten-minute finale "Star Eyes." Even for the heartiest fans, this long-winded exercise might prove taxing. Rollins does the ballad "I've Grown Accustomed to Your (Her) Face," and the horns finally play together for the nearly 12-minute cool waltz "Kids Know." A disappointment in terms of the division of labor, and not the merging of titans jazz lovers would have wished for, this recording still provides a great deal of high level music that could have been so much more.
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