Encompassed in Sonny Rollins Trio/Horace Silver Quintet's Live in Zurich/Swiss Radio Days - Vol. 40 are previously unreleased live in-studio recordings evoking an appreciation for American Jazz. Half of the running time is alotted to the Sonny Rollins Trio, the other half to the Horace Silver Quintet.
Oh, those Europeans with their appreciation of American jazz! The Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series consists of previously unreleased (officially, at any rate) live in the studio recordings for radio broadcast and some enterprising types have been getting them into the once-popular [ahem] CD format. Naturally, there are diamonds in the not-so-rough (the recording quality is generally excellent) in the catacombs/archives and this is one. While most volumes feature a single performer/leader, Zurich 1959 Vol. 40 has approximately half the running time given to the Sonny Rollins Trio, the other half to the Horace Silver Quintet.
The Rollins set features a soon-to-be legendary free jazz bassist Henry Grimes, and drummer Pete La Roca. For novices, Rollins had (and still has) one of the most distinctive approaches to the tenor sax – a hard, steely yet fervent tone, burly yet graceful, unsentimental and thoughtful yet gregarious. Rollins’ Trio play four standards and one Sonny original that became a standard, “Oleo.” This threesome swings hard –Grimes’ bass lines are pliant and buoyant, La Roca plays with crispness and snap in the mode of Mas Roach and Roy Haynes, and Rollins has such a BIG sound you’ll forget there’s no chordal instrument (piano, guitar) in the mix. Rollins’ unaccompanied soloing on “It Could Happen to You” is worth the price of admission – sometimes he croons, other times comes out with knotty lines and judicious touches of trills, honks, and blatts.
This edition of the Horace Silver group in it’s hard bop phase, headed toward but not quite at the subtly funky soul jazz grooves for which he’d become famous in the 1960s. The songs, all Silver originals, are catchy and immediate, and his band shines, especially Blue Mitchell, whose playing has some of the rippling muscularity of Lee Morgan; Junior Cook’s tenor has something of a hard tone on the outside but with a creamy caramel center. “Shirl” is just piano, bass, and drums and it’s a luminous ballad in which Silver uses minimal notes for maximum effect, slightly like Thelonious Monk but Silver is more conventionally harmonious. The closer “Senor Blues” point to the Silver sound of the ‘60s – an insidiously catchy repetitive piano riff driving the song (slightly evoking Peanuts music maker Vince Guaraldi, no piano slouch himself and foreshadows Silver’s hit “Song for My Father”), subdued horns playing melancholy bluesy unison motifs, and a slinky groove.
Fans of Rollins and/or Silver will likely need this but this music is so immediate and joyful it’s recommended to hard bop beginners as well. (Mark Keresman)