Sonny Rollins For The Holidays: An Amazing Unreleased Recording! (+Bonus)
From previous posts (see Rollins in the Index on the home page) you know that I love Sonny’s playing on the album Sonny Meets Hawk recorded in 1963. But a year earlier, he recorded another album which, to me, reached some of the greatest heights ever of passion, imagination, and intense lyricism. The album was made near the start of the “bossa nova craze” and it had the rather long title, What’s New: Sonny Rollins Brings to Jazz a New Rhythm from South America:
As explained in the notes, the “new rhythm” was the bossa nova, but the album also featured a calypso and other dance forms. Sonny takes a number of long, unedited solos, his tone is gorgeous, and his ideas are limitless. The differences in his approach here versus the 50s are very evident. (I will discuss what Sonny worked on during his 1959-61 “sabbatical” at another time.) Produced by George Avakian, with assistance from composer Bob Prince, the album was recorded in April and May, 1962, with his working group of guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Ben Riley, plus a few guests. The quartet had been together since the end of 1961, so they had a lot of experience playing together. The album is easy to find online, streaming, or on CD.
(Bonus Item: Transcribers almost always focus on Rollins’s 1950s recordings. But one of the most beautiful Rollins solos ever recorded, his bossa nova version of “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” from this album, was transcribed for a Japanese publication. That transcription, and the audio track from the album, are below for Paying Subscribers, with my thanks.)
But Avakian told me that if he had had space on the album to include one more track, it would have been Sonny’s rendition of “Brazil.” The samba "Aquarela do Brasil" 'Watercolor of Brazil'), written by Ary Barroso in 1939, is known in English simply as "Brazil.” It became a huge international hit after it was featured in Walt Disney's 1942 animated film Saludos Amigos (released in the U.S.A. in 1943). Here’s how the song was introduced:
Avakian had Rollins’s version only on a 10-inch reel of tape (a copy from the master tape), and his tape deck wasn’t working, so he asked me to dub it for him and for myself. Now, after all these years, you too can enjoy this rich and inventive performance. Don’t be disappointed by the abrupt ending. There’s nothing missing. It’s just that because Avakian planned to fade out after Rollins finished playing, the bass and drums continued for a while to allow room for the fade. Here it is, and ENJOY!:
(Paying Subscribers, keep scrolling down for your rare 9-page transcription, and the audio, of one of the best Rollins recordings ever.)
All the best,
P.S. Avakian’s archives, which include this recording and many more hours of Rollins’s RCA recordings, among other items, are now housed at the New York Public Library, Lincoln Center Branch. The catalog is here. All audio/video content is listed under Series IV. Anyone can make an appointment to study these materials. Follow the directions here to make an appointment for Special Collections. No appointment is needed for the regular collection, but this falls under Special.
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