Friday, October 9, 2009

After Hours

Sonny Rollins. St. Thomas

Having listened to Sonny for the last 20 years or so, I'm inclined to regard him as the best tenor sax player of all time. Sure, guys like Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon get their share of high praise (for good reason) from all quarters, but Sonny is the guy who has always impressed me. Even his miscues - there are a lot of those - are inspired. This clip is not one of those; it's a very solid version of this tune. It was originally a straight-ahead calypso, but the way the drummer approaches it here, it veers towards being a samba. That's just fine, because it's a very tough tune to screw up. You can tack a lot of different feels to it and it still sounds great.

Sonny sounds just fine for his solo. He breaks down the tune into smaller parts and goes to town with it. From his look, I'd say this was shot around 1961 or 62. I'm pretty sure that under his hat lurks a pretty cool mohawk. Yeah, that was Sonny's early sixties look. Everybody else sounds good. I've never been a huge fan of bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, because he tends to play the same all the time, but he's OK here. The other guys (Kenny Drew on piano and Tootie Heath on drums) just play around him. I've heard better versions of this tune, but I've actually never seen a better rendition.

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