One of the first jazz LPs I bought when I was a college student was Saxophone Colossus, and I remember playing it sparingly because it was so great I was worried about wearing it out. Sonny is just the best ever. Imagine jamming with Bird while still a teenager and keeping up, and now at age 82 still having the urge to practice every day – to get better. One of the only times Bird recorded on tenor was alongside young Sonny on Serpent's Tooth in 1953 (try to pick out who is who on that record). Sonny has produced just too much good music through the years to credibly say that one piece, or one era, or one band, or one album is his best. I particularly love the story about the classic Tenor Madness session with John Coltrane in 1956 where Trane reputedly grumbled that Sonny was just messing with him.
Reviews of Sonny’s 1960s RCA recordings – including the article in the link above – usually focus on his comeback album The Bridge, which is a jewel but ultra-conservative for 1962. I prefer the band from later that year with Don Cherry on trumpet, and the album from the following year alongside founding father Coleman Hawkins, which I find incredible. Sonny took some unique approaches during that session – some reviewers describe them as odd – merely to emphasize that he was not Hawk. Not long ago I came across some bootlegs from Ronnie Scott’s in the mid-60s that are undiscovered fun, where Sonny shares the stage with Ronnie himself (recently-discussed master Stan Tracey is on piano).
2011’s Road Shows Vol. 2, where fellow octogenarians Sonny and Ornette Coleman have their first-ever meeting, is notable because Sonny mirrors Ornette’s style when they play together. Unbelievable that they never performed on the same stage before this.