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This 7 CD set traces the rise of tenor saxophone giant Sonny Rollins from a talented neophyte with a big beat and a big sound, to one of the most commanding melodic and rhythmic innovators of the 1950s. Inspired by R&B/Blues master Louis Jordan, Rollins soon fell under the spell of tenor saxophone trendsetters Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, gravitating to the enormous sound of the latter, and the spacious phrasing of the other. And finally, there was the grand rhythmic/harmonic mastery of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and (especially) his elder Thelonious Monk and contemporary Miles Davis. You can hear an earnest, inexperienced but shockingly self-composed Rollins navigate the brisk bopish environment of Davis's "Conception" on disc 1, while demonstrating his West Indian rhythmic roots ("Mambo Bounce") and dry bluesy humor ("Shaddrack") on disc 2. But by disc 3's sessions with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk in 1953-54, Rollins is improvising with spacious, magisterial authority and composing three jazz standards ("Airegin," "Oleo" and "Doxy") for Davis, while proving the perfect rhythmic humorist and melodic foil for Monk on "Friday The 13th." By the time of his collaboration with trumpet master Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach on "Pent-Up House," Rollins had achieved a comparable level of technical and emotional mastery, but he hit a conceptual peak on his calypso hit "St. Thomas" and "Blue 7," where his mastery of melodic riffs and thematic motifs set an artistic standard that remains imposing-even for Rollins-some 40 years later.

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