Song of the Day: Sonny Rollins “Hold ‘Em Joe”
Sonny Rollins is known in jazz circles by a couple of nicknames, including “Newk” and “Colossus”. The latter is particularly fitting as Rollins is indisputably one of the absolute giants of the tenor saxophone. His fearlessness in improvising, his enormous sounding tone, his innate melodic sense, and his encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs and tunes (including an incredible sense of humor in his selection of musical “quotes” when soloing) are the foundation upon which Rollins has earned his reputation. The man obviously lives and breathes music and his take on “Hold ‘Em Joe” (found on his excellent 1972 LP, On Impulse) is a wonderful example of Rollins doing all of the things he does so well, all on the same cut.
Rollins‘ take on this Calypso standard (while Rollins was born in New York City, his parents were originally from the Virgin Islands and the young Sonny Rollins grew up listening to music from the tropics as well as the popular music of the era) is positively explosive. Not only does Rollins take the tune at a breakneck pace, but he really digs into both the melody (a given with Rollins) as well the the rhythm of the song, coaxing idea after glorious idea from his horn. All the while, the rhythm section of Mickey Roker (drums), Walter Booker (bass) and Ray Bryant (piano) keep the song cooking, with Roker throwing in some tasty drum fills and Bryant kicking in some strong solos of his own. Rollins almost perfectly meshes with his rhythm section here, taking many of his ques from what the bass and drums are laying down and playing long solo lines that while lyrical, also reinforce the groove – drawing out the beat with his horn.
If this doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, I don’t know what will!