Tenor Madness… For most musicians creating an album like Tenor Madness would be the pinnacle of their career. For Rollins it was just another prolific album to add to his catalog. This statement is not meant to diminish Tenor Madness, but to signify the level of greatness Rollins has attained. With Paul Chambers on bass, Red Garland on piano, Philly Joe Jones on drums, Sonny Rollins on Tenor, and the great John Coltrane playing sax on the title track, this album is one for the books. So, without further to do let us begin with the title track and my personal favorite, “Tenor Madness”.
The title track “Tenor Madness” is special for many reasons, it’s now a standard tune, it is off this classic album, and it has a duet by two Jazz giants. The record begins with Coltrane and Rollins playing the head which leads into Coltrane’s solo. As usual Coltrane plays with speed, energy, and beautiful running licks. He squeezes as many notes and scales as humanly possible in a measure unlike anyone else. Rollins follows after Coltrane and plays to his strength. Long, slow, mellow, phrases that just sound so beautiful, and, logical to me. Following Rollins’ solo Garland comes in on piano and plays very fast bluesy and bebop licks throughout his solo. Chambers has a nice bass solo followed by beautiful trading of fours by Rollins and Coltrane. This is my favorite part of this record, to hear these two virtuosos call and respond to one another and build a solo together is truly a work of art.
Next up is “When Your Lover Has Gone” which is a standard written by Einar Aaron Swan. overall the song is kept at a medium tempo with lots of blues influence. Rollins plays the head with such beauty he gets as close as possible to capturing the human voice. His solo is a great transition from the melody. Garland solos next and keeps playing around with that medium tempo,bluesy concept. After Garland, Chambers solos next, its nice to hear Garland apply chords where he deems appropriate while Jones keeps time. Jones also has a great drum solo which brings us back to the head.
“Paul’s Pal” follows up “When Your Lover Has Gone”. “Paul’s Pal” is a great medium swing tune composed by Rollins in honor of Chambers. Rollins solos first followed by Chambers which I like since the song is about him. It’s interesting hearing someone solo over a song that’s about them. Garland solos after and leads us back to Rollins and Jones trading bars. I love the interaction between Rollins and Jones. Jones is great at responding at everything Rollins does and adds a interesting dynamic to the record.
The album concludes with “My Reverie” and “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”. “My Reverie” is another great example of Rollins’ ability to imitate the human voice, he does so during the melody as well as his solo. You can sing every note and it sounds so beautiful over the progression. Garland solos after Rollins’ and adds even more be bop to the mix. He is also lyrical in his improvisation,but adds longer runs in his solos. Chambers solos next and brings us back to the head. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” concludes this album and gives us a nice ending to what has already been a classic album. More great Garland be bop solos, Chambers walking bass and soloing like a madman, Rollins with great logical phrases, and Jones giving us energetic solos and hits.
Tenor Madness only further solidified Rollins place in not just jazz but music history. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Rollins is a Jazz giant who is still around and a must to go see if he is in your town. Musicians like him are few and far between, but until you get a chance to hear him live pick up a copy of Tenor Madness it’s a must for music lovers everywhere.