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Sonny Rollins

In the 1960s, the concept of the "power trio" came into full existence. Bands of the guitar/bass/drums configuration, such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, were the prototypes of this style. Arguably however, the Sonny Rollins trio was one of the first bands (within the genre of jazz, no doubt) to set that in motion. His classic 1958 lineup, with Oscar Pettiford on bass and Max Roach on drums, gave the world one of Rollins' best albums, Freedom Suite. It essentially made the lean, steely-toned horn player the tenor saxophonist to watch before John Coltrane stole the spotlight two years later. But in '58, the sax/bass/drums lineup was uncommon, and so was the artistic level of Rollins' combo on Suite. The almost-20-minute title track displays sleek and brilliant group interaction among these three while maintaining a strong message about the racial conditions of the country at the time. Roach's crisp, propulsive playing is melodious and god-like, Pettiford's is nimble and substantial, and Rollins soars over, under, sideways, down, and around both sides of the original LP. Now that this classic has recently been given the digital remastering/reissue treatment (including two bonus tracks/session outtakes), Freedom Suite is definitely a bracing, exploratory, confrontational, and, yes, fun disc that deserves to be explored again.
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Mark Keresman

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