Sonny Rollins ‘The Bridge’ (Poll Winners) 4/5

Tenor titan Sonny Rollins was prolific during the early to mid-1950s and cut some definitive music on the saxophone. However, by 1959 he was in dire need of a break and took a three year self imposed sabbatical from the recording industry. By 1962 he was ready once again to record and enlisted the considerable support of producer George Avakian who had done such a sterling job with the upcoming trumpeter Miles Davis during the mid-late 1950s on his first Columbia album ‘Round Midnight’. The pairing of Rollins with guitarist Jim Hall was a truly inspired one and the rapport between the two makes this album one to remember among those in the Rollins pantheon. The rhythm section was solid with bassist Bob Cranshaw who would be a staple on the Blue Note label while drumming duties are shared between Monk quartet member Ben Riley and Harry T. Saunders. The album combines two originals including the fiery title track alongside four standard numbers with ‘God bless the child’ a genuine standing out piece. A real bonus is the inclusion of some additional recordings, most notably two numbers from the ‘Jazz Casual’ series that was hosted by jazz critic and presenter Ralph J. Gleason (the whole session is available separately on DVD). Two alternative version of the original album complete a fine all round package. The extended sleeve notes of the original, written by George Avakian, are faithfully reproduced, while a Downbeat review of the time by Ira Gitler no less is included also.

Tim Stenhouse