Resonance Records Releases Unheard Performances of Sonny Rollins 1967 Netherlands Tour – Both Live and Studio Cuts on ‘Rollins in Holland’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Ah, Black Friday is here. This set of Sonny Rollins discoveries from the Dutch Jazz Archive is one of his four efforts (also George Coleman, Monty Alexander, Bill Evans) for Record Store Day from the “Jazz Detective” Zev Feldman.  Three are on the Resonance label and the other (stay tuned) will also be covered here. It has become a tradition for Resonance to release unissued archival recordings for this special day and this one is indeed special – a 3-LP set of live and studio recordings, Rollins in Holland, will be available on Record Store Day will a 2-CD set available on 12-4. As is customary with Resonance releases, there will be a comprehensive booklet featuring an interview with now 90 years young Rollins as well as with his Dutch sidemen for these dates, Han Bennink and Ruud Jacobs. In addition, the booklet includes comprehensive notes by Rollins’ biographer Aldan Levy, an essay by journalist-researcher Frank Jochemson, and rare, previously unseen photographs. These booklets are treasures as those know who have purchased sets by Bill Evans, Eric Dolphy, Wes Montgomery, and Nat King Cole, among others.

These recordings capture Rollins in his prime, with his unmistakable robust tone and wildly energetic improvisation, performing with a trio ten years after his iconic Live at the Village Vanguard, also a trio recording. In the interview Rollins says to Feldman, “I’m so happy that Resonance is putting it our because it really represents a take-no-prisoners type of music. That’s sort of what I was doing around that period of time; that was sort of Sonny Rollins then – a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am approach. It was very much me. And I loved playing with those guys.” In fact, this music comes from a seldom documented period in Rollins’ career. It comes between a studio hiatus that lasted from 1966 (the date of his Impulse! East Broadway Run Down) until 1972. In 1969 he also began a two-year sabbatical from live performing. So, in essence, he was off most folks’ radar during this time.

During his brief but heavily booked 1967 stay in the Netherlands, Rollins, then a 36-year-old was supported by two of the country’s top young players, bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. This rhythm tandem has supported visiting American jazzmen such as Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery, and Clark Terry, among others. Jacobs was considered a straight-ahead player and a talented soloist (i.e. solos on “Tune Up” and “Love Walked In”) while Bennick was developing an avant-garde reputation, as you’ll hear in his skittering, frenetic drum patterns throughout. Rollins gives each of them plenty of space too. 

If you’re wondering how just 11 tracks can comprise a 3-LP set, Rollins, like the other tenor giant of the time, John Coltrane, could often journey into 20-minute plus improvised excursions, of which there are three of those here as well as another that runs to 15 minutes. This is the epitome of freewheeling material. The shortest live track is eight minutes and is interestingly, the only one reprised from the Village Vanguard live album, “Sonnymoon for Two.” The 20 minutes plus tracks are “Three Little Words,” “Love Walked In,” and the closer “Four.” In total the material is drawn from three separate appearances by the trio – a May 3 concert at the Arnhem Academy of Arts (five selections and the most lengthy ones), a May 5 studio session at the VARA studio in Hilversum (four selections that begin the set), and from the Go-Go Club in Loosdrecht, hosted by Jacob’s brother and wife for a television show (two selections in the middle). According to journalist Jochemson the Arnhem selections were bootleg material passed around by Dutch jazz buffs over the years, but the remainder is recently discovered.

In 2017, the four stereo studio tracks were discovered by Jochemsen and authenticated by Jacobs and Bennink as they were being digitized for the Dutch Jazz Archive (NJA). In 2019, Jochemsen discovered the audio form the “jazz met Jacobs” appearance at the Go-Go Club along with a unique set of photos shot at the soundcheck and live broadcast of the lost TV show. 

More than anything, given that this was 53 years ago, it is a testament to the transcendent timelessness of jazz. Of course, Rollins may hold a spot on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of jazz improvisers and it’s amazing to hear him in the prime of full flight. The late bassist Jacobs states this in the interview captured last year before his passing – “something spiritual. {There was} a very special atmosphere on the stage where I felt I could do anything.” That special feeling comes across beautifully here. Savor this one.

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