"Saxophone Colossus" was recorded in a single day in 1956 in Rudy Van Gelder’s living room, which conveniently doubled as a studio. It has since become a veritable jazz classic. Now, the original engineer of this recording session has remastered it to provide us with this CD, which was made in an attempt to be true to the musicians’ original intentions. The result is very satisfying.
Three of the selections, "St. Thomas," "Blue 7," and "Strode Rode" are Sonny Rollins’ original compositions. "You Don’t Know What Love Is" is a ballad standard, while "Moritat," commonly known as "Mack the Knife," is from a German musical that was popular in the US during 1956. Each of these tunes is a classic in its own right.
The musicians on the album as well are masters in their fields. Tommy Flanagan, with his fluid, flowing style, provides a counter to Sonny Rollin’s melodic and rhythmic ideas. Doug Watkins provides a steady swing feel on bass, and although he has only one solo, on "Moritat," it swings just as hard as the other solos on the album. Of course, Max Roach on drums keeps the whole ensemble always on the go and provides all the grooves they need to solo over. He has a couple of bristling solos, himself.
The star of the show, however, is Sonny Rollins. The debate over who can lay claim to the title of greatest saxophone player and improviser of the jazz era, Rollins or Coltrane, goes to higher stakes with this album. Rollins uses his solos as a chance to do some melodic storytelling. Each phrase has a clearly shaped idea that blends into the next, to eventually form a masterpiece.