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Freedom Suite

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 1, 1991
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Editorial Reviews

By 1958 Sonny Rollins was already able to claim the jazz high road as a tireless innovator who chose to test the mainstream's boundaries. Freedom Suite made his place in the vanguard all the more stable. Rollins slimmed his ensemble down to a trio--as he had done a few months earlier on his Village Vanguard live recordings (see volume 1 or volume 2). But Rollins turned the trio to his own extended work, this CD's title suite, and his horn playing thrived under the extensions. "Freedom Suite" is a winding, episodic piece, full of stair-climb segues and solos that seemed to be collective with drummer Max Roach. And its political implications were fully externalized in the title, declaring Rollins's position on the burgeoning civil rights movement. Rollins didn't altogether give up the standards or show-tune repertoire, however, staying in the pop-music ring with Noel Coward's "Someday I'll Find You." --Andrew Bartlett

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Freedom Suite
  2. Someday I'll Find You
  3. Will You Still Be Mine?
  4. Till There Was You (take 4)
  5. Till There Was You (take 3)
  6. Shadow Waltz

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 1, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ojc
  • ASIN: B000000Y45
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,004 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Sonny Rollins leads a trio including his tenor, Max Roach on drums, and Oscar Pettiford's bass for this inspired session from 1958. Dominating this cd in time and musical achievement is the title track "The Freedom Suite". In his liner notes jazz critic Orrin Keepnews describes this extended piece as "In one sense... the reference (of freedom) is to the musical freedom of this unusual combination of composition and improvisation; in another it is to physical and moral freedom, to the presence and absence of it in Sonny's own life and in the way of life of other Americans..." This is a truly ambitious and inspired work, whatever feelings may have been driving the men behind it. The Freedom Suite is comprised of several movements, flowing from intense and driving to soft and sombre, then back again. Clocking in at nearly twenty minutes this performance is made even more impressive by how Rollins, Roach, and Pettiford keep the music even and never bog down or produce a throwaway lick. This is another classic from an intensly creative period of Sonny's career, and could easily be one of the best of all time. The final five tracks are more conventional fair, but the trio keeps up the pace. While not as striking as the title track these two standards and two waltzs still offer inspired performances. Rollins really digs into a laid back duet with Pettiford on two takes of "'Till There Was You", and almost recalls Lester Young on "Shadow Waltz". Every album Rollins cut between 1951 and his first retirement in 1959 is worth getting including this one. "The Freedom Suite" is one of those pieces of music that requires mulitple listenings to fully digest, and rewards the effort tenfold. Highly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD
Something was definitely in the air in the late 50s. Though the dominant musical style in jazz was hard bop, with its bluesy amalgam of bop phrasing and 30s swing styles, many instrumentalists seemed poised to break into new territory. Coltrane was developing his complex harmonic practices in his work with the Davis Quintet and on his first solo albums. Monk was developing his quirky style into something that didn't quite fit into the prevailing bop style. Cecil Taylor had already recorded his first ground-breaking albums. In this list of "proto free jazz" classics one name often gets forgotten, that of Sonny Rollins. Perhaps it's because Rollins' music was still so tied to standards and bop phrasing, and it doesn't sound "out" the way many of the others do. But Rollins' musical concept is at least as far reaching as any developed in the late 50s, and this album is testimony to that fact.
The Freedom Suite is an example of Rollins' pioneering work in the saxophone trio genre, a genre that he was one of the first to develop. Backed by an outstanding rhythm section of underrated bassist Oscar Pettiford and the brilliant Max Roach, Rollins' "pianoless" group paved the way for the sax power trios of Ornette Coleman, Sam Rivers and Albert Ayler in the 60s. Lacking the harmonic straightjacket that a chordal instrument lays over jazz, this setting allows Rollins free reign to create his astonishing improvisations. Whether using reworked standards like Till There Was You, or Will You Still Be Mine, or his ambitious, multi-movement Freedom Suite, Rollins the improviser dominates the disc. And his profoundly logical, deeply structured and yet infectious bop phrases never disappoint.
Most impressive on the disc is the title cut.
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Format: Audio CD
Perhaps as well-known for its political implications/reflections as it is for its music, "Freedom Suite" is probably the first attempt by a hard bopper at the "long from" --extended improvisation lasting more than the usual 3-5 minutes. In my opinion, the master (other than the semi-classical aesthetic of Ellington, who frequently used terms such as "Suite" and "Concerto"), the master of the form is composer/bassist Charles Mingus. In contrast to these two giants, Rollins works within a trio format, thus presenting a heavier burden on each musician. Fortunately, ROllins' trio has three greats, Rollins, Oscar Pettiford on bass, and Max Roach on drums. Bottom line: This is an excellent, although not "essential" (whatever that vague term means) album that's worth your time and money if you're a fan of Rollins, post-bop, the long-form, or generally consider yourself a jazz fan. What follows are more extended notes on the cuts, especially the 19-minute "Freedom Suite."

The first movement of "Freedom Suite" (19 minutes, 17 seconds) begins with a simple, fairly light riff, with drums and bass filling in between restatements. Then Sonny Rollins improvises against the riff's rhythm and harmonies--one can still hear the basic melodic structure as well. Rollins fluid sound contrasts in an interesting way with the sharply percussive, punctuated rhythm section. As is frequently the case, the improvisations move further from the basic theme, but he still makes this center a home. Bassist Petitford has an excellent, nimble solo, and then Rollins plays, this time sounding more like the rhythm section, with shorter bursts of sound introducing an exciting yet economical Max Roach solo. IN short, the first movement is fairly conventional structurally and sonically, it seems like a warm-up.
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