Picks and Pans Review: The Complete Sonny Rollins Rca Victor Recordings

UPDATED 10/06/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/06/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

Sonny Rollins

This six-CD retrospective is a portrait of one of America's greatest living jazz artists in midlife transition. After proving his prowess with such classic 1950s albums as Saxophone Colossus and Freedom Suite, Rollins withdrew from public life in 1959, at age 29, and took to practicing his tenor for hours daily atop the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City. The Bridge, his inaugural 1962 record for RCA, heralded his return to the jazz scene after a two-year absence and featured lyrical studio renditions of "Without a Song" and other standards. On five other RCA albums released between 1962 and 1964, Rollins explored an expansive musical landscape, from the celebratory calypso of "Don't Stop the Carnival" on What's New to the free jazz jamfest of "Oleo" on Our Man in Jazz. No matter what the material, he revealed a protean ability to transform a tune rhythmically and harmonically that left the musicians who played on these sessions in awe. "It was sort of like what Picasso did with a face," says guitarist Jim Hall. "He'd just turn it every which way." (RCA Victor)

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