In March of 1959, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ trio and pianist Horace Silver’s quintet recorded five tunes each for Swiss Radio in Zurich.
With Rollins now off the scene since 2012 and Silver deceased since 2014, these heretofore unreleased performances take on greater historical importance. At the time, Rollins, performing with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Pete La Roca, was not the colossus he would become in the next decade, but he was a master at keeping the melody in focus while creating ingenious variations. Throughout these performances (“I Remember You,” “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” “It Could Happen to You,” “Oleo,” and “Will You Still Be Mine”) he also thrives at rhythmic invention. With only Grimes and La Roca to support him, the performances nonetheless convey a sense of completeness.
With the second portion of the program, we get the gospel according Silver. The tunes, all originals by the pianist, incorporate his innate bluesiness, down-home cooking and rhythmic catchiness. Silver, as well as his sidemen – trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Louis Hayes – are in especially good form. With Silver’s propulsive accompaniment, Mitchell and Cook solo with cleanly expressed, rhythmically attractive ideas. The tunes include “Nica’s Dream,” “Cool Eyes,” “Shirl,” “Ecaroh” and “Senor Blues.” In addition to the strong, focused soloing by the horns, it’s worth listening to the rhythm section alone for the drive it provides, especially Silver’s various background riffs.
Correspondent Owen Cordle
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“Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quintet Zurich 1959”
On the TCB label, otherwise known as The Montreux Jazz Label