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Newk's Time (1957)

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Sonny Rollins

In his early prime and well-respected, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins cut this fine hard bop date as one of several late-'50s sessions for Blue Note. The record is part classic date, part blowing session, sporting a mix of engaging head statements and lengthy solos. Rollins takes to the spacious quartet setting, stretching out on taut versions of Miles Davis' '50s concert opener "Tune Up" and Kenny Dorham's "Asiatic Raes." Keeping the swing hard but supple are drummer Philly Joe Jones, bassist Doug Watkins, and pianist Wynton Kelly; Jones was certainly the standout in this well-respected sampling of the best young players of the period, as he oftentimes matched the intensity and ingenuity of the star soloists he backed. Jones, in fact, puts in some career highlights on "Wonderful! Wonderful!" and "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," just two of many wholly unique Tin Pan Alley song interpretations Rollins has done in his long career. From a career-defining period before the legendary Williamsburg Bridge layoff of two years, Rollins' Newk's Time may not make classic status in jazz roundups, but it certainly is a must for fans of this most important of classic hard bop soloists. ~ Stephen Cook