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Saxophone Colossus, recorded on June 22, 1956, presents Sonny Rollins leading an all-star quartet that includes pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach. The album enjoyed great critical success from the start and helped establish Rollins as a prominent jazz artist. When Rollins entered Rudy Van Gelder’s studio on June 22, 1956 to make this LP (one of his more acclaimed as a leader), he had already been a regular member of the celebrated Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet for half a year (which explains Roach’s presence on the album). Four days later, that group would no longer exist, for on June 26 both Clifford Brown and the band’s pianist Richie Powell were killed in a tragic car accident. Age 26, Rollins was already a well-known jazz star. He had recorded a few albums as a leader but, above all, he had been part of one of the most outstanding combos of the period: the Miles Davis Quintet. It’s impossible to know how far Rollins would have gone with the Roach-Brown quintet had Brownie lived. But the fact is the fatal accident accelerated his departure from Roach’s formation and he started working mostly as a leader. Many great achievements would follow in his career.
Hackensack, New Jersey, June 22, 1956.