[Rudy Van Gelder Remasters]
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Sat November 11, 2007, 08:30 AM CST
Whether itís because of his frequent retirements from the music business, the manner in which John Coltrane stole his thunder during the latter part of the í50s, or some combination of the two, the fact remains that Sonny Rollins never seems to get his due. Even the liner notes that Ira Gitler penned for Plus 4 ó an album that was released in 1956, when Rollins was considered the dominant tenor saxophonist in jazz ó defensively highlight his importance. Considering his later work, the outing itself is not one of Rollinsí more adventurous endeavors. In fact, it begins in such an unassuming fashion, with Rollins and trumpeter Clifford Brown playing in tandem over the top of the breezy waltz-time beat, that itís easy to be swept away by the effortlessness with which the ensemble delivers the material. A closer inspection, however, reveals how frightfully good the collective was, in spite of its relative infancy.
Rollins had been a member of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet for less than a year when he asked his associates in March 1956 to join him in the studio to lay down the tracks that became Plus 4. Recorded in a single session, the collection bristles with tense, vibrant energy. Roachís frenetic cadence drives the rapid-fire romp through I Feel a Song Coming On, and joined by the running bass lines of George Morrow, his skipping percussion propels Kiss and Run. The mid-tempo gait at which Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep is taken lends the setís lone ballad a cheerful air, and the rhythm sectionís lockstep grooves keep Valse Hot and Pent-Up House in constant, fluid motion. At times, pianist Richie Powell blends into the metronomic pulse of the material, but whenever he takes the lead he provides a different perspective, tucking blatant blues motifs into Valse Hot and Pent-Up House, for example.
The real magic on Plus 4, however, happens between Rollins and Brown. Although they remain attached to the underlying rhythms, Rollins is so focused upon what Brown is doing ó and vice versa ó that they sometimes seem oblivious to what is going on behind them. Tossing ideas back and forth, they suitably frolic and chase each other through the playful framework of Kiss and Tell, while on Pent-Up House they converse in a single-minded fashion with Rollins first echoing and then expanding upon the concepts outlined by Brown. Itís on the latter track that the collective fully comes together, too, as Powell, Morrow, and Roach take a more active role in the ongoing dialogue. Sadly, both Powell and Brown died in a car accident just months after the recording session was held, which means, as powerful and moving as it is, Plus 4 offers just a small taste of what could have been. Ĺ
Other Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Releases
Plus Four is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box