Records: Classical Jazz

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Sonny Rollins: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (RCA Victor, 5xCD). While Rollins has remained a saxophone colossus in his thrilling live dates, his recorded legacy is a mite patchy for such a great figure, especially over the last two decades, after he fell victim to the fusion virus and never, perhaps, fully recovered. The six original Victor albums represented here (complete with alternate takes, natch) were all produced by George Avakian. They span the years from 1962-64, when Rollins was in full creative flood and open to all sorts of influences, evidenced in the employment of sidemen associated with Ornette Coleman, like trumpeter Don Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins and bassist David Izenson. But the main highlights of this continuously delightful box-set come from another angle altogether, where Rollins is most inimitably himself, as on the superb album The Bridge (with guitarist Jim Hall) where his versions of "God Bless The Child", "If Ever I Would Leave You", and - best of all - the stonking calypso "Don't Stop The Carnival" still leave the listener gaping in astonishment at his ceaseless invention.

Rollins's wrestler-like tussles with the farthest reaches of his instrument's capabilities - the solos unspooling before you like the reels of tape they were recorded on - are some of the most enduring moments in jazz.

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