Open main menu

Tenor Madness is a 1956 jazz album by Sonny Rollins. It is most notable for its title track, the only known recording featuring both Rollins and John Coltrane.

Tenor Madness
Sonny Rollins Tenor Madness.jpg
Studio album by
RecordedMay 24, 1956
StudioVan Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey
ProducerBob Weinstock
Sonny Rollins chronology
Sonny Rollins Plus 4
Tenor Madness
Saxophone Colossus



Rollins and Coltrane had both been members of groups with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk in the past. Rollins had had some recent success, and both were emerging as prominent solo tenor saxophone players.[1]

Two months before the session for Tenor Madness Rollins was working at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey on the album Sonny Rollins Plus 4 with Max Roach and Clifford Brown. And two weeks before, on May 11, Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones, had been recording with Davis at the same studio to fulfill his duties for Prestige on sessions that would provide material for the albums Workin', Relaxin', and Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet.

Although the rhythm section's "playing here is somewhat less vital than on that session" (with Davis),[2] the historical importance of Tenor Madness lies in the title track. It is the only existing recording with Rollins and Coltrane playing together.[3]

The title track is a 12-minute duet between Rollins and Coltrane, and the B-flat blues melody has become very well known for Rollins. The tune was first recorded in 1946 by Kenny Clarke and His 52nd Street Boys as "Royal Roost", and has also been recorded under the title "Rue Chaptal."[4]

"Royal Roost" is usually credited as a Kenny Clarke composition; as "Tenor Madness," it was credited to Sonny Rollins. It is easy to distinguish between the two saxophonists on the track "Tenor Madness", as Coltrane has a much brighter and more boisterous sound as compared to Rollins' smoother, "wet-reed" tone. However, as jazz critic Dan Krow said, the two complement each other, and the track does not sound like a competition between the two rising saxophonists.

"Paul's Pal" is a composition by Rollins named for bassist Paul Chambers. "When Your Lover Has Gone" is a 1931 composition by Einar Aaron Swan re-interpreted as a drum-driven blues track. The Clinton & Debussy ballad "My Reverie" is one of Rollins's most prominent examples of his lyrical skills from his 1950s recordings. "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", a tune from the 1935 musical Jumbo, is a Rodgers & Hart composition which goes here from a jazz waltz to a fast-paced 4/4 tune.[5]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [5]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide     [6]

The AllMusic review by Michael G. Nastos calls the album "a recording that should stand proudly alongside Saxophone Colossus as some of the best work of Sonny Rollins in his early years, it's also a testament to the validity, vibrancy, and depth of modern jazz in the post-World War era. It belongs on everybody's shelf."[5]Author and musician Peter Niklas Wilson called it "one of the most famous combo recordings of the 1950s."[7]

Track listingEdit

All tracks by Sonny Rollins except where noted.[5]

  1. "Tenor Madness" - 12:16
  2. "When Your Lover Has Gone" (Einar Aaron Swan) - 6:11
  3. "Paul's Pal" - 5:12
  4. "My Reverie" (Larry Clinton, Debussy) - 6:08
  5. "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (Rodgers, Hart) - 5:37



  1. ^ Bailey, C. Michael (5 February 2003). "Sonny Rollins: Tenor Madness". All About Jazz. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  2. ^ Review of Tenor Madness Archived 2008-10-25 at the Wayback Machine by Chris Kelsey on
  3. ^ Review of "Van Gelder's CD Remastering of a Rollins' Classic" Archived 2010-02-01 at the Wayback Machine by Dan Krow on November 14, 2006, on Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  4. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2007). Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (1 ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374126063.
  5. ^ a b c d Nastos, Michael G. "Tenor Madness". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  6. ^ Swenson, John, ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide (1 ed.). New York: Rolling Stone. p. 171. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  7. ^ Wilson, Peter N. (2001). Sonny Rollins: The Definitive Musical Guide. Berkeley, California: Berkeley Hills Books. p. 121. ISBN 1-893163-06-7.