Sonny Rollins, Our Man In Jazz (Bonus Track Version)

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 09.10.12 in Reviews

Our Man in Jazz (Bonus Track Version)

Sonny Rollins
Challenging himself beyond his comfort zone

Sonny Rollins was intrigued and respectful of the innovations made by Ornette Coleman, who burst on the scene just as he was taking his two-year sabbatical to reconsider his own approach to jazz. This live gig at the Village Gate in New York was his most overt attempt to accommodate Coleman’s disdain for structured chord changes and harmony, with Coleman cohorts Don Cherry on cornet and drummer Billy Higgins joining Rollins bassist Bob Cranshaw for a fascinating, if predictably mismatched, engagement. Rollins simply is more direct and less quizzical than Coleman, which makes Cherry’s wry, glancing reactions more out of place, although Higgins is attuned. Rollins channeling Coleman on the 25-minute “Oleo” feels like a fox trying to break into a sealed-up henhouse. Three studio songs at the end of this new edition of the disc subs in Henry Grimes for Cranshaw, but in a perfect world it would have been Coleman bassist Charlie Haden trying to help the leader bridge the gap. Yes, Our Man In Jazz is ultimately a failed experiment; but hearing Rollins challenging himself beyond his comfort zone is both revelatory and rewarding.