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Night At The Village Vanguard Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, Live

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The mid-fifties was an astonishing period for this saxophone genius. And for all his great work in this era, this daring album and "Saxophone Colossus" remain his crowning achievements. With just bass (Wilbur Ware) and drums (Elvin Jones) in support, Rollins creates tenor saxophone improvisations of increible beauty and inexhaustible creativity. Twenty years after the initial album, a double album containing the rest of the releasable material from this magic night at the Village Vanguard was issued. With the recent re-discovery of the original tapes, the performance has been assembled as it happened and beautifully remastered by original engineer with superb depth of sound. Several of Sonny's stage announcements have been added to master for the first time.

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In 1957, Sonny Rollins was at an early creative peak, already a masterful improviser who could range from hard-bitten bop blues to broad or sly humor, all conveyed with a swaggering virtuosity and bullying warmth. One of the first jazz musicians to develop the extended solo, Rollins would turn tunes inside out rhythmically, often building a solo around complex variations on a tune's melody. The Vanguard recordings come from a period when Rollins found maximum freedom in a trio pared down to the essentials of tenor, bass, and drums, and the multiple takes here testify to his fluent invention. Disc 1 of this set is highlighted by two takes of "A Night in Tunisia," the first recorded at a matinee with bassist Donald Bailey and drummer Pete LaRoca, the second and faster version at the evening performance with regular accompanists bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones. The second CD continues the evening performance with Ware and Jones. It's a uniquely gifted threesome, with each musician seeming to invent new ways to swing, without a note or a musical opportunity wasted. Both Rollins and Ware reveal their relationship to Thelonious Monk in the ability to create complex, arresting music out of shifts in rhythmic inflections. It's especially apparent in the second version of "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise." In this context, Jones has an opportunity to show just how melodic a drummer he was. The two versions of "Get Happy" demonstrate Rollins's ability to make complex and witty music out of the most banal material, while "What Is This Thing Called Love" is a tour de force of sustained group invention. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 14, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, Live
  • Label: Blue Note
  • ASIN: B00000K4GJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,120 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Before this live album was recorded saxophonist Sonny Rollins dabbled with a number of different sized groups. Eventually he settled on the trio with either drummer Pete La Rocha or Elvin Jones (pre John Coltrane classic quartet) and bassist's Wilbur Ware and Donald Bailey. A NIGHT AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD was the first recording ever made at the esteemed jazz club. I don't know what recording techniques were used, but some have expressed their reservations about the sound quality. I would like to dispell those reservations up front. This album does not sound quite as good as some later live recordings from the club. But if you turn it up it sounds practically as good. This is one of those albums that sounds better as you play it louder. Fiddle with your EQ a bit and you will be satisfied.
This double disc set is THE one to get-don't even consider earlier partial releases of material from this gig. Here all the music is properly sequenced and you can enjoy the interplay of the trio, the often goofy introductions by Rollins, the chatter between him and the audience, and you can hear him counting off the beginning of tunes which is kind of fun. You get a nice set of standards here including "A Night In Tunisia", "I've Got You Under My Skin", and "What Is This Thing Called Love?" as well as some great originals like "Sonnymoon For Two" and "Striver's Row".
The jazz trio is a bit easier to listen to when you talk about a piano-based trios like Sonny Clark or Bill Evans. Without the piano to provide a solid chordal foundation for the melody, it is easy to get lost. The bassist can only provide so much of a tonic root.
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Format: Audio CD
At some point in 1956 Sonny Rollins developed from being a promising new voice on the tenor saxophone to one of the great jazz improvisers. From then until his temporary withdrawal from the jazz scene at the end of the decade he produced a series of fine recorded sessions, including a classic album aptly titled `Saxophone Colossus'. This Village Vanguard recording from 1957 is valuable for capturing Rollins in good form in a live setting accompanied only by bass and drums. Of additional interest is that the drummer was another jazz colossus treading his own path to greatness: Elvin Jones.
As these were live sessions, it's not surprising if some of Sonny's playing here is sometimes more diffuse than in the more tightly constructed pieces on his studio albums from this period. Nevertheless there is a lot of inspired and energetic playing here. Tracks such as "Sonnymoon for Two", "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" and "A Night in Tunisia" are often singled out as highlights; but I haven't yet come across any appreciation of "What Is This Thing Called Love?" as the most remarkable performance. This track reminds me of two other Rollins classics: "There's No Business Like Show Business" (on the earlier album, `Worktime') and "Three Little Words" (`Sonny Rollins on Impulse' - 1965). Like them it shows Sonny paring down and reconstructing a well-known standard with characteristic resourcefulness and wit, playing with motifs from the tune and with time and phrasing, and managing to sound both supremely relaxed and intensely concentrated at a moderately fast tempo.
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Format: Audio CD
I have alwys found this the most satisfying, and certainly the most stimulating, of Rollins's recordings. He chose on this occasion to work with just a trio of himself, bass and drums. A lesser jazzman could not have pulled this off, but in Rollins's case one feels never bored, as he keeps coming up with new, exciting, highly musical and well-expressed ideas, showing astonishing versatility and inventiveness. Listen to his work on familiar tunes like "A Night in Tunisia", "Old Devil Moon", "Softly as in a Norning Sunrise", for example, to hear how he rephrases and mines these classics: always aware of the essential melody, but always probing its implications. His rhythmical sense is second to none, as his venturesomeness in this area. The other musicians are also excellent in the way they respond to, and stimulate, the leader. I have never tired of Rollins's music on this recording (and not often on any of his recordings, for that matter), and here he shows himself clearly one of the most important tenor players ever, and certainly one of the leaders on this instrument at the time the recording was made. Indeed, the music he was producing at this time was possibly more gratifying to listen to than Coltrane's, even though Coltrane at his best could be yet more innovative, annd emotionally moving. This is an excellent recording, which I unhesitatingly recommend as a great addition to anyone's jazz library, and possibly as good a way as any to have Rollins represented as the essential musician he is, in any compilation of important jazzmen. - Joost Daalder
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