A Night at the Village Vanguard | Sonny Rollins

Artist: Sonny Rollins

Year: 1958

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

Grade: A

A Night at the Village Vanguard is the most coveted anomaly in Sonny Rollins’ extensive discography. The man never plays avant-garde. But on November 3, 1957 at New York City’s most legendary jazz club, Sonny took a dive in the deep end. Backed only by bassist Wilbur Ware and a young Elvin Jones on drums, the spare format allowed Rollins the opportunity to explore the very limits of harmonic convention.

In the past, I claimed that Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street and Sonny Rollins’ own Tour de Force were “the hardest hard bop ever recorded,” only to find out that A Night at the Village Vanguard burns both LPs to the ground. Never before or since has jazz been so relentless, so elemental, so powerful.

Hard bop? For one night at the Village Vanguard, Sonny Rollins hurdled past the genre’s breaking point.

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