I am accustomed to hearing jazz CDs that play a good hour or more
so I was a bit out of sorts when this CD stopped playing after a little
over a half hour. I did not let that throw me off though; I was then
reminded by the CD booklet that Sonny Rollins originally recorded
Plus Four in 1957. A 30-minute session was the standard in that day
even for a jazz album regardless of how long the session was after
the tape stopped rolling, all recorded music was unmercifully trimmed
down for the sake of marketability. I know how odd that sounds by
todays standards but that is how it was then. Regardless of the short
run time every song except I Feel a Song Coming On (2:32) is over
five minutes or more. That is what you would expect from a jazz tune;
therefore, the total time is irrelevant.
This is a classic jazz recording and it was a monumentally important
one for Rollins career. Although Rollins played a very important role
as a sideman in the Max Roach-Clifford Brown group, this was the first
outing he was the bandleader. He would take the steering wheel to
navigate his fellow musicians through some of his own compositions
during this recording session. He took full advantage of his opportunity
and made music history. Normally when a sideman breaks out to go solo
they then put a new band together, not in this case, Rollins played
with his regular partners, only the leadership role switched hands.
Interestingly enough it worked very well.
This is not a stereo recording. Mobile Fidelity however did preserve
the original mono recording for this remaster. It still sounds more
wonderful than ever. As noted on the labels website, the first pressings
of the CD have a sticker on them indicating the recording is Hybrid
Stereo, which is not the case. Bop was a crucial developmental sub
genre of jazz that lead to the beginning of fusion and progressive
interpretations of well-known classics. As great new tracks were awaiting
their berth, this album was part of groundbreaking work that would
initiate that sequence of events.
Pent-Up House has to be one of the greatest compositions ever written
and when you hear it for the first time or for the fiftieth, it always
sounds fresh, holding you spellbound. This is archetypal hard bop
with five instrumentalists at the pinnacle of their creative powers.
Rollins tenor saxophone serves him well as the lead instrument, as
it would from that point forward in the central position in a band.
Being a leader of a band seemed to come naturally for him, as he gave
each musician his turn to share the spotlight, showing how very intelligent
and humble he was as a leader.
Timeless and tasteful, the legacy of Sonny Rollins continues to this
day. This was the beginning of a new era in jazz giving more musicians
an opportunity to explore music without boundaries. Artists like Rollins
were true innovators of a genre that was literally exploding with
ideas. I certainly cannot be as eloquent or knowledgeable about the
minutiae as Ira Gitler (original liner notes) was, but I know great
music when I hear it in such pristine and perfected detail. Plus 4
is every bit as important today as it was I 1957. Here is the proof
and the truth right here on this SACD reissue.
1. Valse Hot - 8:40
2. Kiss and Run - 7:11
3. Count Your Blessings - 5:16
4. I Feel a Song Coming On - 2:32
5. Pent-Up House - 8:53
Clifford Brown - Trumpet
Max Roach - Drums
Sonny Rollins - Sax (Tenor), Interviewee
George Morrow - Bass
Richie Powell - Piano