166. Sonny Rollins / Rollins Plays for Bird (1956)
The medley of post-1950 Charlie Parker tunes that begins this tribute to the late Mr. Parker flows as effortlessly as a river thanks to Wade Legge's piano continuo and Max Roach's drum kit. Rollins and Kenny Dorham do most of the melody and choruses, although Roach gets a fair shake, too. He characteristically mixes it up during the front line's choruses, laying on the cymbals and hard rolls while changing from straight time to double-time and back again, adding a loping feel, building urgency, or cooling it back down as needed. Legge and bassist George Morrow are the only musicians in the quintet to never work with Parker, so there is a familiar intimacy about the music that comes from the friends honoring a friend. Dorham is relaxed and outstanding in the "Star Eyes" segment. He especially soars in "Kids Know," a Rollins original in 3/4 that the band stretches out generously. There are a lot of Charlie Parker tribute albums out there, hundreds since 1955, and some are real time wasters. This date is one of the best, the most genuine, and the most enjoyable.