Sonny Rollins: Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise


Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise


Sonny Rollins (tenor sax)


A Night at the Village Vanguard, Volume 1 (Blue Note CDP 7 46517 2)

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Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Wilbur Ware (bass), Elvin Jones (drums).

Composed by Sigmund Romberg & Oscar Hammerstein II


Recorded: live at the Village Vanguard, New York, November 3, 1957


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

A Night at the Village Vanguard, Volume 1 marks Sonny Rollins's first "live" recording as a leader. He used several combinations of fine musicians during that engagement, but preferred this trio lineup. Thank God there were people recording these nightclub sessions back in those days. In this case, legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder rolled the tape. There is a certain charm to the technical primitiveness of the times. This monaural recording authentically captures artists in growth mode and also helps define a historic period in American music. Can you believe that people used to go out to local jazz clubs and listen to music? I know it seems hard to believe, but lots of folks were doing it.

The ballad "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" is treated with reverence by Rollins, bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones. Ware plucks a few strings to let Rollins know when to start. Rollins plays the melody with a blues melancholy, revealing Sonny the sensitive interpreter, not the powerful saxophone colossus. Ware follows Rollins's affecting solo with a fitting run at the melody himself. If you listen carefully as Jones uses his brushes, you can hear some of his signature vocal grunts helping to carry the tune along. All three players were in top 1957 form, playing music that was worthy of a vaunted venue like the Vanguard.

I was only 10 months old when this gig happened. But I still miss those days.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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