SONNY ROLLINS — The Cutting Edge (review)

SONNY ROLLINS — The Cutting Edge album cover Live album · 1974 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
After the steaming Horn Culture, one could’ve hoped this “Live in Montreux” album to have the same kind of Cutting Edge, but it’s surprisingly lower key than one would expect, despite featuring a similar line-up, consisting of Mtume, Lee, Masuo, Cranshaw and Cowell. Actually, the concert set was a mixed bag of oldie-trad jazz pieces, laced in with some rather inventive fusion numbers. Apparently (according to producer Orrin Keepnews) the mix had the crowd demanding three encores and not letting Sonny & The Gang hit the bed until the middle of the night.

The opening title track features an odd mix of funk-fusion with clunky ethnic jazz, but the resulting music is rather interesting fusion, where Rollins’ sax reigns king. The following Wild Rose is an oldie-sounding (it’s a cover) slow middle-of-the-night piece that could serve as a lullaby to most kids. A much more enthralling First Move returns to a modern funky fusion, with much energy and hinting slightly at the previous Horn Culture album. Indeed the deep funky groove allows plenty of room for Rollins to pack up the crowd and airmail them to Evian, on the other Geneva lake shore.

On the flipside, the mellow cover of House Is Not A Home is a rather un-daring standardy-jazz affair that could’ve been played a decade sooner for more pertinence. The real surprise of the album is with the closing (but centrepiece) almost 15-mins Sweet Chariot track, where guest Rufus Harley brings out bagpipes (yes, believe it!!!) and blows a different Mull Of Kintyre tune. Of course the opening solo lines blends-in rather fine with Rollins’ sax, and both engage in a sort of call & response, before the others engages hostilities and turn things into a strange funky fusion. A rather uneven and schizophrenic live album, one that is not able to make up its mind between trad or modern, even if the fusion weighs heavier in the overall balance.
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