Other than two numbers cut for the Progressive label in Houston a couple years earlier (and thus far never reissued), this Atlantic session (put out as a Koch CD in 1999) was the recording debut for the remarkable Phineas Newborn. The 24-year-old pianist's playing on this trio/quartet date with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke (and occasionally guitarist Calvin Newborn) is virtuosic to say the least, on Oscar Peterson's level if not Art Tatum's. Newborn rips through the repertoire (which is highlighted by "Barbados," "Celia," "Daahoud," and "Afternoon in Paris"); try to tap your foot to "Celia" without breaking your ankle! In the liner notes, George Wein faults Newborn's tendency to double time the ballads, and some listeners may shake their heads at his constant outpouring of technically impossible runs (those speedy octaves are ridiculous) – but if one has chops on this level, one should feel free to display them. This is a dazzling debut from an ill-fated but classic pianist, and this CD is a gem.
Half of this LP contains the famous session on which Sonny Rollins teamed up with his idol, the great tenor Coleman Hawkins. Actually, the competitive Rollins did everything he could during these performances to throw Hawk off with plenty of sound explorations and free playing, but Hawkins keeps from getting lost and battles Rollins for a tie; pianist Paul Bley plays well too. The remainder of this LP (three selections apiece from the former LPs Now's the Time and The Standard Sonny Rollins) is more conventional but has its moments of interest. The young Herbie Hancock is on piano for all of these tracks and guitarist Jim Hall helps on "Trav'lin Light." Rollins's RCA recordings of the '60s are all worth picking up.
Pianist Lennie Tristano was an early inspiration and a major influence on the playing of altoist Lee Konitz and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. Their very notable and highly original Capitol recordings of 1949 – with the quiet metronomic rhythm section, advanced melodic improvising, and reharmonizations – stood apart from the typical bop of the period. By 1955, when the earliest performances on this 1997 limited-edition, six-CD set were recorded, the trio was not working together very often; in fact, Tristano was mostly functioning as a teacher, only surfacing for occasional records and club dates.