Sonny Rollins – Rollins Plays For Bird

Hot Stamper Pressings of Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – this is the first copy to hit the site in many years and it is as good a pressing as we have ever heard
  • These Blue Label Prestige stereo pressings from the ’60s put everything else we played to shame – this is the Real Sound of Sonny Rollins at his peak in 1957
  • It’s beyond difficult to find good sound for the music of Charlie Parker, but this Sonny Rollins Hot Stamper LP gives you just that for some of Bird’s most famous tunes, backed with excellent performances from the likes of Kenny Dorham and Max Roach

This album is Rollins at his BEST. Allmusic gives it Four Stars and the Users rate it even higher, Four and a Half. The album released before this one was the legendary Saxophone Colossus, an album we would love to do more shootouts for, if we could only find them.

When the sound is as good as it is here, that’s the kind of jazz record that makes us sit up and pay attention. This quintet features trumpeter Kenny Dorham, pianist Wade Legge, bassist George Morrow and drummer Max Roach.

This vintage Prestige pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1957
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Rollins Plays For Bird

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

Bird Medley

Side Two

Kids Know
I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face

Allmusic 4 Star Review

As the tenor sax is not in the same key as an alto, Sonny Rollins would have to transpose a lot of music to take a tribute to Charlie Parker to a high level. Instead Rollins has chosen standards associated with Parker, and recorded them within a year after Bird’s passing.

This idea poses some peculiar challenges, added on to the fact that the quintet of Rollins starts the proceedings with a 27-minute medley of seven tunes seamlessly stitched together.

Pianist Wade Legge, an unsung hero of jazz in the ’50s for sure, plays some wonderful music here, and laces the grooves of the tunes together, while bassist George Morrow and the always exceptional drummer Max Roach keep things moving forward.