Sonny Rollins, UK Pressing, Williamsburg Bridge

Back on eBay and here’s another one of those cool UK Esquire covers: Sonny Rollins, Worktime, Esquire 32-038. This is an original UK pressing listed in Ex condition for the record and VG+ for the cover. The bidding is now in the $150 range with more than five days left on the auction. One thing that is striking me now for the first time in examining these UK listings: The seller is listing this as a 1958 pressing. Is that accurate? If so, that would be two years after the original release date in the U.S. Did our friends in the UK really have two wait two years for Worktime and/or other original Prestige recordings? Another thing; while I find the cover to be pretty cool looking, there’s something a bit off about it. I guess the illustration implies getting back to work, but it does look a bit like Sonny is strung out, at least to me, which may not be the most appropriate illustration since, in my recollection, Worktime was recorded just after Sonny reportedly kicked the habit.

Speaking of Sonny, that effort to rename the Williamsburg Bridge in his honor is gaining some momentum. According to a report in Bowery Boogie, a Brooklyn Councilman has actually introduced a bill that would make this a reality, and the Brooklyn Borough President is also supportive of the idea. I will follow up on this in the next few days and see what we can all do to help move this along. I cannot describe how cool it would be to drive over the Sonny Rollins Bridge.


  • Yeah I would lose my brain if the bridge I walk or take the train across so often is the Sonny Rollins bridge!

    1958 seems about right for an Esquire/Prestige pressing of that record. I believe they are not exactly contemporaneous with the US releases. Discogs says ’56 but I don’t really trust their listings on a lot of modern jazz titles.

  • The lag between American and International releases for small private jazz labels back then made for some interesting touring observations.
    I’ve seen both French and British newspaper articles of Coltrane’s 1961 European tour that had reviewer’s blindsided by his performance. They had not heard Coltrane’s Atlantic releases therefore were not aware of the rapid changes Hard Bop was going through in the US.
    I read that one French Reviewer stated that, “He(Coltrane) must take us for fools”, as he had never heard anything like it before.
    Richard Williams included this 1961 review for the “The European Tour” cd……

    [ When John Coltrane brought his quintet to the UK to start a 27-city European tour in November 1961. Bob Dawbarn, the Melody Maker’s representative, returned from the opening show at the Gaumont State in Kilburn, North London, with a piece that ran under a headline screaming: “WHATHAPPENED?”
    Dawbarn was a knowledgable fan of modern jazz — including the music of Dizzy Gillespie, whose band topped the bill that night — but Coltrane’s new sounds had him “baffled, bothered and bewildered”, reflecting the opinion of a large chunk of the audience uneady for the changes jazz was starting to undergo.
    Part of the problem was that Coltrane’s UK album release schedule lagged far behind the US. The fans who knew him from his work with Miles Davis and his own earlier records as a leader were expecting a tenor saxophonist who expanded the rulebook but did not rip it to shreds. They had not heard his latest Atlantic album, My Favourite Things, containing a version of the title song in which he used the major-to-minor shifts of Richard Rodgers’ harmless little melody (from The Sound Of Music) as the vehicle not only for his discovery of the soprano saxophone but for his assault on jazz’s established limits of harmony and timescale.]

  • When Coltrane with his quintet, incl. Eric Dolphy, toured the Netherlands in Fall 1961, he made reference to his latest recordings for Impulse. Impulse was a label we had never heard of. Giant Steps had just come out as an import from the U.K. on the London label.

    Esquire did not at all follow the sequence of Prestige issues in the US. They had their own priorities.

  • I have the Esquire Rollins , no production dates shown , but the “OK fellas ” comment at the start
    of Show Business has been edited out . I have had this version for many years and have always seen the cover depicting a rest between sets for the quartet outside the stage door . For me this is the best Rollins of the period.
    As far as the Coltrane tours go and the 1961 reaction of European critics and audience , they all had the same reaction to his February 1960 tour with Miles and he was REALLY ripping things to shreds then. Did nobody see the development of the artist , just expecting his greatest hits I guess .

  • On March 31st 1960, The Jazz At The Philarmonic toured in Milan, Italy, at The Teatro Lirico: the first concert was The Oscar Peterson Trio, the second The Stan Getz Quartet and finally The Miles Davis Quintet with John Coltrane (under The Jazz At The Philarmonic flag!). This was the first time that Coltrane played in Italy: there was a strange and tense atmosphere, Davis was furious with Granz, their respective lawyers were in the dressing rooms. When Coltrane began his solos, immediately the audience was shocked by his playing, the main part of the audience thought he was crazy, some other people was thrilled. Among the audience was the director of the Musica Jazz journal, Arrigo Polillo: his review was harsh toward the saxophonist, he openly talked of Coltrane as a bad musician! Just a very minor jazz fans had the opportunity to hear Coltrane on record, only some Miles Davis record (especially Relaxin’ with a different beautiful cover) were issued in Italy on the Music label. The Coltrane Atlantic records were released from 1961/1962 on italian Atlantic black label

  • Coltrane was whistled and booed during the Paris concert on March 21st 1960 , during the Stockholm concert the next day Carl Eric Lindgren interviewed Coltrane and mentioned he had being playing Giant Steps regularly on his radio program. Coltrane nominated Blue Train as his best album so far and Giant Steps and Soultrane as his best quartet albums so far. Coltrane also tried to explain what he was trying to achieve within the freedom that Miles had given him to play anything he wanted.
    Basically he explained he was using a bunch of harmonic devises to get ” out of the ordinary path”

  • i definitely get a ‘strung out’ vibe from the artwork, too. i don’t know what the artist’s intentions were, but i think that even if sonny still had his habit at this time, the portrayal is fairly offensive, despite possibly being well-intentioned.

  • I’m trying to figure out what the three shadowy figures are doing in the back.

  • The rest of the quartet waiting for Sonny to wake up?

  • Can I suggest putting on our 1957/8 eyes , English eyes at that , I doubt the drug reference looking at
    it through this prism. It also shows 4 figures , which makes up a quartet maybe .

  • Totally “nodding off” in between sets outside the gig. Play on the Worktime title.

  • When I look at the Rollin’s cover I think the 2 outer guys have their hands in their pockets and the guy in the middle has his hands on their shoulders. A lot of the Esquire covers are really tasty.

  • what do you think is the idea of the figure, ian? i’m genuinely curious.

  • Gregory, do you think this makes sense?….
    I drew an outline around what I think is a silhouette of the other three members of the quartet….

  • The cover designer was Michael Sherlock who also did Ray Bryant Trio , Miles Davis Dig and I think Gene Ammons In Fidelity ( but I do not own that one). I can’t find any information on him but if you visit the London Jazz Collectors site they put together a comparison of about 100 Prestige and Esquire covers and the distinct impression comes from those covers (that do not just duplicate the US releases ) that they are just another interpretation of the title .So I would tend to stick with my original suggestion that is the quartet resting between worktime.

  • that’s not a bad interpretation. i doubt the designer intended to make it look like sonny was all fucked up, but it can definitely come across that way.

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