Walter Theodore Rollins, the mostly self-taught tenor saxophone "colossus" was born in 1930, in New York City. By his teenage years he had already formed bands with drummer, Arthur Taylor, and saxophonist, Jackie McLean. He was playing professionally by age 14 and by the time he was 19 was already in the big leagues, playing with greats like J.J. Johnson and Bud Powell. By age 26 he had played with giants: Parker, Davis, and Monk. He came to be regarded commonly as dynamic and hard swinging, and considering himself to be a "free musician" using a lot of free association in his improvisations.
Rollins first began recording as a leader in 1951 for Prestige and his 9 albums are part of the 7 CD Complete Prestige Recordings Collection. The era found him working with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach band, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, among other big names.
This collection was originally released as The Best Of Sonny Rollins, but proved to be a bit disappointing as it was far from complete. This new release, happily, features the addition of a bonus CD that includes a few other indispensable tracks such as "Oleo," "Airegin" and "Tenor Conclave."
If you don’t already have The Best of Sonny Rollins, this is a much better collection. Standout performances from the original recordings such as Monk’s gleaming contribution to "More Than You Know," and Roach’s severe drum solos in "St. Thomas" and "Moritat" (Mack the Knife,) present a bit of a look at the depth and scope of Rollins’ brilliance as a leader. Combine this with stellar interpretations of Duke Ellington’s "In a Sentimental Mood" and Cole Porter’s "It’s Alright With Me," and mix with classic collaborations such as with Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones on "Tenor Madness," and you get a simply "must-have" compilation, but this is dramatically enhanced by the bonus CD’s inclusion of "Oleo" with Davis, "Aeregin" with Dexter Gordon, and "Tenor Conclave" with greats: Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.