365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 17

Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders


There is so, so, so MUCH material to choose from when it comes to talking about Sonny Rollins. So, as a point-of-entry, because I need one, I’ll rely on the first album of his I ever heard. A friend gifted me this on cassette in the late 80s, and rarely a month has gone by where I haven’t listened to it at some point since. The cassette is long gone of course, but the music remains!

This is an album of some significance in the Rollins canon, as it was the last he’d record before his self-imposed 3-year exile from professional music; a sabbatical famously spent practicing on the Williamsburg bridge, and time off that would ultimately lead to The Bridge in 1961, upon his return.

The album was a West Coast date that featured Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Leroy Vinnegar, and Shelly Manne, all of whom were also “leaders” for titles on the Contemporary label.

The album is so playful, and inspired, and it swings so hard, and it’s just truly a joy to hear this music. Highly, highly recommended.

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