Night Lights Classic Jazz

Rollins ’57: Sonny Rollins Takes The Lead

In 1957 Sonny Rollins was at the peak of his first great period, playing with a confident, swinging, and radical abandon both as a leader and as a sideman.

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  • Rollins 2

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: album art

    WAY OUT WEST established the sax-bass-drums format in which Rollins would work much of the time for the rest of the 1950s.

  • Sonny Rollins 1957

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    Photo: YouTube

    Newk's time: 1956 had been a great year for Sonny Rollins. What came next?

Sonny Rollins is one of the great saxophone improvisers of jazz history. He plays with the passion and energy of a giant, the wit and humor of a streetwise New Yorker, and a lover’s knowledge of the Great American Songbook. In 1957 he was coming off a superlative year; he’d recorded several albums, including Saxophone Colossus and Worktime, continued to work with Clifford Brown and Max Roach, and appeared on Thelonious Monk’s masterpiece Brilliant Corners.

Only 26 years old and having kicked the heroin addiction that had dogged his early career, Rollins would continue his artistic ascension in 1957, gaining more recognition for his accomplishments as Down Beat Magazine bestowed their “New Star” award upon him. By the end of the year, firmly established as a leader, he’d make a live recording at the Village Vanguard in New York City that would become a jazz classic.

The Night Lights show Rollins ’57: Sonny Rollins Takes the Lead features music from that Vanguard date, as well as:

  • a track from his Way Out West LP (with Rollins clad in cowboy garb on the cover)
  • a solo tour de force from his Sound of Sonny album
  • a last appearance as a member of the Max Roach Quintet
  • a rare broadcast of Rollins during his brief stint with Miles Davis‘s group that summer.

Rollins Plus:

Music Heard On This Episode

Get Happy
Sonny Rollins — A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)
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Get Happy
Sonny Rollins — A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)
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I'm an Old Cowhand
Sonny Rollins — Way Out West (OJC, 1957)
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Love Letters
Max Roach — Max Roach + 4 (Polygram, 1957)
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It Could Happen to You
Sonny Rollins — The Sound of Sonny (Riverside, 1957)
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Sonnymoon for Two
Sonny Rollins — A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Four
Miles Davis

Notes: July 13, 1957 Cafe Bohemia broadcast w/Sonny Rollins on tenor sax.

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Blues For Philly Joe
Sonny Rollins — Newk's Time (Blue Note , 1957)
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Old Devil Moon
Sonny Rollins — A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)
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I Can't Get Started
Sonny Rollins — A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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