Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Sonny Rollins Crosses The Bridge

In 1959, Sonny Rollins took a sabbatical to improve his tenor saxophone playing, practicing for three years on the Williamsburg Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. When he returned, Rollins recorded his album "The Bridge"; above is a 1963 performance of the title track with the classic lineup of Jim Hall, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass, and Ben Riley, drums. Hearing it, I see the endless flow of traffic changing lanes, honking, streaming back and forth over the East River that separates the two boroughs. Rollins' most famous album is "Saxophone Colossus," a title that fits the intensity and inventiveness of his improvisations. In his 2005 profile of Rollins in The New Yorker, Stanley Crouch wrote:

Over and over, decade after decade, from the late seventies through the eighties and nineties, there he is, Sonny Rollins, the saxophone colossus, playing somewhere in the world, some afternoon or some eight o'clock somewhere, pursuing the combination of emotion, memory, thought, and aesthetic design with a command that allows him to achieve spontaneous grandiloquence. With its brass body, its pearl-button keys, its mouthpiece, and its cane reed, the horn becomes the vessel for the epic of Rollins' talent and the undimmed power and lore of his jazz ancestors.

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