Sonny Rollins has been played a lot on Radio 3 over the past few. He’s the subject of a couple of episodes of Alyn Shipton’s excellent Jazz Library, one of them broadcast on November 23rd, and the other due for transmission on December 14th. There was also a performance of his version of “We Kiss In the Shadows” on Jazz Record Requests recently.

The latter is a key track for me. It wasn’t until I heard the album it comes from, East Broadway Run Down, for the first time a few years back that I truly appreciated how great Sonny Rollins is. Up to then I’d always thought of him as a really good tenor player, on the same extremely high level as someone like Dexter Gordon or Joe Henderson, but not one of the all time greats. Listening to East Broadway Rundown changed my mind. Although he’s not changed jazz history in the way that Young, Hawkins or Coltrane did, Rollins’ playing is of the same quality.

I still haven’t worked out if it’s something special about this album, or if it’s just that my tastes have changed and matured to the point where I fully appreciate what he’s doing. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t bothered buying it, but had simply decided to give my copy of Newk’s Time another spin?

His best period was the late 50s and early 60s, but he’s still capable of producing top class work. If an album like This Is What I Do had been released by some young whippersnapper, people would be raving about it, whereas because it’s yet another Sonny Rollins album, the tendency is to say “It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as The Bridge or Saxophone Colossus or Our Man in Jazz or….”

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