SONNY ROLLINS — Horn Culture (review)

SONNY ROLLINS — Horn Culture album cover Album · 1973 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sonny Rollins must have liked hearing Billy Holiday with two of her absolute classic numbers included and a composition he composed himself which has no familarity with Billy Holiday's classic "Loverman" but the title "Love Man" sandwiched in between the two Billy Holiday numbers does make one think. Anyway recorded in 1973 and this album "Horn Culture" is Sonny's second album after his last absence from the Jazz scene in the late sixties and early seventies doing yoga and the Eastern thing but he sure came back vibrant and as usual he played beautifully with this album being no exception. Many of his albums from this period in the seventies are not as highly regarded as his classics from the fifties and sixties but if one maintained that thought you would miss out on some absolute fantastic Jazz which is what Sonny has played from day one when he arrived on the scene all those years back in the early fifties. Walter Davis Jr. is on piano, Masuao, guitar, Bob Cranshaw, electric bass, David Lee, drums and Mtume percussion with some slight changes at times throughout by three of the band members on their usual instruments. One thing it is great to see the album cover mentions that there are over-dubs used and "honesty is the best policy" with Sonny's sax being where but it is done very well as it applied only sparingly. Bit of a mixture of styles contained within bringing a great variety to the album with Post and Hard Bop, touch of Funk and the composition "Sais" could have fitted nicely on to a Jazz Fusion album with the use of the electric, accoustic piano combined and Masuo's electric guitar added. One thing Sonny has the lions share and his glorious horn is all over the album which is precisely why one listens to Sonny Rollins and although things seem to have changed within the music his horn has not belting out some absolute gloriously linked Bop based solos.

"Pictures In The Reflection Of A Golden Horn" and I wonder whose? but this is the album commmencement and things start of with a nice Soul feel from Sonny and the band but it is not long before the intensity picks up and Sonny keeps just blowing harder on this wonderful album starter which is one of the three compositions by Sonny included for the album. The next one though is written by the percussion player Mtume being "Sais" and is the longest track on the album going for just under twelve minutes and one of the most striking with Mtume playing basically a constant repitition of piano chords with a solo included instead of percussion and Walter Davis Jr is playing the keyboard bringing that underlay with Bob Cranshaw's electric bass on this just below mid tempo composition. Sonny Rollins puts a beautiful solo on soprano and tenor with it gradual intensity increase with Masuo following him on electric guitar and I do find this reminscent of a Wayne Shorter style composition with its own distinct structure and perhaps one of the best tracks on the album. "Notes For Eddie" is another Sonny composition and Sonny is his usual great self with the drum and percussion mix giving the song a great feel and another great stabber of a guitar solo from Masuo within. Billy Holiday gets the Rollins treatment first up on Side B with her absolute classic ballad "God Bless The Child" being played beautifully with a slight jaunt to open the number and Sonny pretty much keeps too the tune with Masuo back on guitar and Walter finally getting his chance on piano within this beautiful version. "Love Man" is side two's variety with its up-tempo approach with a little funk thrown in which just rips along and of course Sonny is good. The album closer is another Billy Holiday classic "Good Morning Heartache" and the other ballad on the album and it is played as all the other numbers within the album are, at a great high standard but it is Sonny near the end when he plays the song unaccompanied which he would do more frequently in the future to come after this album and I for one just love it.

Think outside the box with this one and although I would be the first to say the Sonny's albums from that classic late fifties to early sixties are his best there is nothing wrong with this and we should all be grateful that he did change bringing this other variety to his music which he still uses today in concert with Bob Cranshaw playing his electric and a percussion player in his current band in 2011. Once again, "it is just that Sonny Rollins magic".
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