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Reviews: Sonny Rollins: Plus 4

Reviews: 3

Review by muzikman May 9, 2003 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I am accustomed to hearing jazz CDs that play a good hour or more so I was a bit out of sorts when this CD stopped playing after a little over a half hour. I did not let that throw me off though; I was then reminded by the CD booklet that Sonny Rollins originally recorded “Plus Four” in 1957. A 30-minute session was the standard in that day even for a jazz album regardless of how long the session was after the tape stopped rolling, all recorded music was unmercifully trimmed down for the sake of marketability. I know how odd that sounds by today’s standards but that is how it was then. Regardless of the short run time every song except “I Feel a Song Coming On” (2:32) is over five minutes or more. That is what you would expect from a jazz tune; therefore, the total time is irrelevant.

This is a classic jazz recording and it was a monumentally important one for Rollins’ career. Although Rollins played a very important role as a sideman in the Max Roach-Clifford Brown group, this was the first outing he was the bandleader. He would take the steering wheel to navigate his fellow musicians through some of his own compositions during this recording session. He took full advantage of his opportunity and made music history. Normally when a sideman breaks out to go solo they then put a new band together, not in this case, Rollins played with his regular partners, only the leadership role switched hands. Interestingly enough it worked very well.

This is not a stereo recording. Mobile Fidelity however did preserve the original mono recording for this remaster. It still sounds more wonderful than ever. As noted on the label’s website, the first pressings of the CD have a sticker on them indicating the recording is “Hybrid Stereo,” which is not the case. Bop was a crucial developmental sub genre of jazz that lead to the beginning of fusion and progressive interpretations of well-known classics. As great new tracks were awaiting their berth, this album was part of groundbreaking work that would initiate that sequence of events.

“Pent-Up House” has to be one of the greatest compositions ever written and when you hear it for the first time or for the fiftieth, it always sounds fresh, holding you spellbound. This is archetypal hard bop with five instrumentalists at the pinnacle of their creative powers. Rollins’ tenor saxophone serves him well as the lead instrument, as it would from that point forward in the central position in a band. Being a leader of a band seemed to come naturally for him, as he gave each musician his turn to share the spotlight, showing how very intelligent and humble he was as a leader.

Timeless and tasteful, the legacy of Sonny Rollins continues to this day. This was the beginning of a new era in jazz giving more musicians an opportunity to explore music without boundaries. Artists like Rollins were true innovators of a genre that was literally exploding with ideas. I certainly cannot be as eloquent or knowledgeable about the minutiae as Ira Gitler (original liner notes) was, but I know great music when I hear it in such pristine and perfected detail. “Plus 4” is every bit as important today as it was I 1957. Here is the proof and the truth right here on this SACD reissue.

©"Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
May 8, 2003

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Review by DeSelby June 1, 2005 (1 of 4 found this review helpful)
good old sound

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Review by Jay-dub June 7, 2007 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
My standards for the remastering of '50's Van Gelder recordings are based on the JVC XRCD of Walkin' and the Analogue Productions SACD of Saxophone Colossus. They are both of them perfectly equalized in the bass: no note of the bass line drops out or gets boomy, and the piano sounds fairly natural, though not perfect. I have not heard any other edition of this particular album.

Equalization on this issue leaves something to be desired. It is sometimes hard to make out what note George Morrow is playing on the bass (occasionally the octave is ambiguous), and the sound of Richie Powell's piano is only slightly less ugly than the piano on my Fantasy OJC and Blue Note Ron McMaster compact discs of Van Gelder recordings. It probably doesn't help that Richie Powell was a second-rate pianist.

The horns come across very well, even in the RBCD layer but especially in the SACD: much better than on any standard-issue CD of this type of recording that I have ever heard. Probably they sound so good because of the extreme care that Mobile Fidelity takes for the high-frequency response of the tape playback heads used in their "GAIN 2" system.

In short: this is probably the best-sounding issue ever of "Plus 4", but at its price I really think it should be better still.

For those who don't know if they need this album: Clifford Brown's trumpet was the voice of God, and on this occasion, Sonny Rollins was drawing his inspiration from the same source. This album is the original recording for two of Rollins's greatest tunes. Ritchie Powell isn't really bad, but his playing is a blemish.

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