Sonny Rollins: The Surrey with the Fringe on Top


The Surrey with the Fringe on Top


Sonny Rollins (tenor sax)


Newk's Time (Blue Note BLP 4001)

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Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Composed by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II


Recorded: Hackensack, NJ, September 22, 1957


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Aside from John Coltrane's work with Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space in 1967 (and occasional isolated instances with Elvin Jones prior), not many sax/drum duets have attained "essential listening" status. It remains an esoteric and obscure pursuit, practiced mostly—when practiced at all—by free jazzers. Therefore, Sonny Rollins's duet with Philly Joe Jones on this classic performance of "Surrey" is in all ways a rarity—a sax/drums duet that maintains the form and structure of the standard tune upon which it is based. Listeners familiar with such Rollins trio works as Way Out West and the Village Vanguard sets can be forgiven for imagining a bassist filling out the bottom, yet upon closer inspection they'll find only Philly Joe's toms and bass drum. Rollins invests the sprightly tune with his usual joie de vivre and an endlessly elastic way with improvised melody. More than usual, Philly Joe interacts directly with Rollins's statements; and, of course, he never compromises his trademark drive. Finally, as an example of what Rollins can do with simple harmonic materials, this can hardly be surpassed. An entire album of this might grow old, but as an inspired variation on traditional bebop performance practice, this small gem can't be beat.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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