Recording Date: February 27th and March 7th, 1958
Re-release date (Keepnews Collection): June 3rd 2008
Availabilty: CD, MP3 download, iTunes
"Freedom Suite" shows all the virtues of Sonny Rollins' take on the pianoless trio approach that he had developed with "Way Out West" and "A Night At The Village Vanguard". Partnered just by Max Roach on drums and Oscar Pettiford on bass, there is space for innovation and for the relationship between the musicians to become central to the music. Max Roach in particular is ideal in this respect, having worked with Sonny Rollins for some years before this recording and showing great understanding of what the possibilities are.
'The Freedom Suite, which kicks of the album, is a nineteen minute improvisation that was presented on the original album as a whole side of uninterrupted music; a radical departure in 1958 when the new 'long player' format was still in its infancy. It is heavily improvised and presented in a number of sections that seem to define themselves largely by what is required to allow the improvisation to proceed to its logical outcome, even if this means complete pausing at times. It is experimental without being radically challenging to musical form in the way that 'free' jazz was to become.
While a youngster, Sonny Rollins absorbed many inputs from popular culture, including the musical themes of the popular radio serials of the day such as the now not much remembered 'Mr Keane: Tracer Of Lost Persons' which used Noel Coward's "Someday I Will Find You" as its signature tune. Sonny Rollins' improvisation on this is the next track on the album, transforming the original into a music of real mystery and imagination. This facility of drawing widely on popular music in all its forms has remained a strong feature of his playing right up to today.
"Will You Still Be Mine" by Dennis and Adair and "Till There Was You" by Meredith Wilson (and later to be covered by 'The Beatles') are two standards that are given interesting treatments, leading to innovative playing from Sonny Rollins that offers a strong foretaste of his soon to be achieved wider success with "Saxophone Colossus" and "Tenor Madness".
"Shadow Waltz", a Warren-Dubin composition, completes the album. For the Keepnews Collection remaster, there are two added alternate versions of "Till There Was You" and a further take "There Will Never be Another You", the Harry Warren and Mack Gordon standard.
This is a welcome reissue, highlighting a formative stage in Sonny Rollins' career as a distinctive voice of jazz saxophone that would entertain and astound over the next fifty years.
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Bret Primack's video for Concord Records interviewing Orrin Keepnews on Sonny Rollins "Freedom Suite"
Read our review of "Tenor Madness"
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