Monday, May 17, 2010

Sonny Rollins' Alfie

I have been regrettably behind in listening to my friend Ken Laster's fine podcast.  I am catching up!  This weekend I listened to his Mother's Day show.  I was smokin' ribs outside, and turning the iPod back on when I came back into the kitchen.  Ken is a master of the mixer.  His selections always work well together, and he does a good job of blending contemporary jazz with classics from the archive.  

One of the cuts he included in this show grabbed me by the short and curlies.  It was Sonny Rollins doing the theme from the 1966 movie Alfie.  I haven't seen the movie, though I am a Michael Caine fan.  I didn't have the album, though I am a big Sonny Rollins fan.  Most of the titles in my Penguin Guide to Jazz have a little star by them, indicating that they are on my iPod.  

Well, Mr. Music Company search engine, guess what I did when I heard that cut on In the Groove?  I bought the damn thing from Amazon.  Under six buck for the album!  It is a treasure.  I am guessing that the 'soundtrack' category probably didn't help its position in the jazz world.  In fact, Rollins uses the sound track thing as a beautiful template.  The basic theme reoccurs, to be sure, but that is the marvel of the thing.  

This is a very solid hard bop document.  A fairly simple blues based line is elaborated and milked for all it's worth, and it's worth a lot.  Nobody ever played with a greater command of texture than Rollins.  Every breath is a lover's caress.  That we live in such a universe where walking meat wrapped in skin bags can produce such exquisite beauty, that is a central mystery of philosophy. 

Here is the lineup for the album, from the Jazz Discography Project
J.J. Johnson (tb -1,2) Jimmy Cleveland (tb -3/6) Phil Woods (as) Robert Ashton, Sonny Rollins (ts) Danny Bank (bars) Roger Kellaway (p) Kenny Burrell (g) Walter Booker (b) Frankie Dunlop (d) Oliver Nelson (arr, cond)
 That's a pretty impressive bunch.  J.J. Johnson on trombone.  Wow.  Phil Woods on alto.  Wow2.  I think that Kenny Burrell might be the most impressive player after Rollins.  Perhaps the real genius was Oliver Nelson (Blues and the Abstract Truth) who arranged the music and conducted the band.  Still, it's a Rollins album.  

Well, here are a couple of samples. God, but this gets me going.   Try these, and if you like 'em, buy the album.  Trust me.  Sometime you'll be sitting and listening to it when everything around you is crashing down.  Rollin's horn will save you.  
Sonny Rollins/He's Younger Than You Are/Alfie

Sonny Rollins/Alfie's Theme Differently/Alfie
 And while you are at it, drop me a line.  Especially you French readers.  I just noticed that I get almost as many readers from India as from France.  Aren't Les Francais supposed to be jazz fans?  Get with the program! 


  1. Yep, even I ante'd up to Amazon after reading your post. I played that track on my show from some vinyl a friend of mine brought with him up to Studio A at WHUS. But I can't resist having the entire album loaded up on my iPod.

  2. I sold another one! It is very good. Ditto on the Impulse album.