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Still in progress

Silver City: A Celebration of 25 Years On Milestone
Silver City: A Celebration of 25 Years On Milestone
By Sonny Rollins

Milestone / Fantasy Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the December 6, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Sonny Rollins first earned his reputation in the late '40s, blowing as hard as anyone in bop. He recorded some sides now considered classics throughout the late 1950s, the walked away from the music world for a couple years. On his return to performing in 1961, he played as if he'd never left – then retired again in 1968. This new two-CD box set from Milestone chronicles the third (and continuing) stage of Rollins' remarkable career, beginning upon his most recent return to music in 1971.

While it wouldn't be accurate to say Rollins has mellowed with age – that would suggest a lessening of creative intensity, which is certainly not the case – he has acquired a greater lyricism in the latter part of his career, a greater awareness and use of melodic improvisation.He has, in fact, become quite the balladeer – witness his romantic reading of "Where or When" from 1993, his beautiful interpretation of the old country standard "Tennessee Waltz" (1989) or the heartbreaking World War II song, "Someone to Watch Over Me."

In fact, Rollins has spent the last quarter-century exploring a lot of new terrain, terrain that often gets overlooked because everything he does is held up this his historic bop recordings. But tunes like the funkified and danceable "Harlem Boys" from 1979, or the samba-tinged "Tell Me You Love Me" from 1984 exhibit an increasingly broad musical vision, the mark of an artist still in progress.

The enclosed booklet gives a complete breakdown on the 19 cuts here – when, who, where. And the liner notes by Chip Stern include a neat interview with Rollins, looking at his career not so much from a retrospective point of view, but rather looking toward the future, at what's still to come.