This Is What I Do

LABELS: Milestone
ALBUM TITLE: Sonny Rollins
PERFORMER: Sonny Rollins (ts), Clifton Anderson (tb), Stephen Scott (p), Bob Cranshaw (el b), Jack DeJohnette, Perry Wilson (d)


Sonny Rollins might be forgiven for feeling like Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22. Constantly reminded he had never done anything to match his early career masterpiece, Heller used to point out that neither had anyone else.

So might Rollins, who as a 25-year-old in the Fifties enjoyed a creative high that started with Worktime and ended with Freedom Suite, taking in Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West and a couple of classic Blue Note sessions for good measure. By any standards these were astonishing albums demonstrating jazz improvisation could be sustained for lengthy periods with coherence, subtlety and wit.

This Is What I Do does what few Rollins albums in recent time have done – comfortably coexists alongside his best work without sounding as if he is in competition with his past. He takes unlikely vehicles for improvisation, such as ‘Moon Over Manakoora’ or ‘Sweet Leilani’ and pulls them apart with his blunt phrasing, reassembling them as endless propositions that could be spun forever while his elastic conception of time gives a slightly lumpier tread to his improvisations on originals like ‘Did You See Harold Vick’ and ‘Charles M’.


Less intent in colonising empty spaces with as many notes as possible, Rollins is imperiously lyrical – a treat indeed. Stuart Nicholson