A Portrait of Sonny Rollins - JazzWax

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September 07, 2010


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Hi Marc,

Thanks once again for this posting and for directing us to your fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal. Like you, I'm a huge fan of jazz history, especially when it comes to the most famous NYC jazz venues throughout the years and the history of musicians' lives and how the two intertwine. I felt as if I was in the car with you and Sonny!

I had the opportunity/good fortune (lucky girl) to meet Sonny briefly after his concert at Symphony Hall in Boston and in the 2 minutes or so of Sonny holding my hand and speaking with me, I felt both the warmth and the power of one of the greatest musicians of our time.

I'm looking forward to the book you describe, too, and I will be celebrating Sonny's birthday, too, up here in New England.

Thank you!

Doug Zielke

The book is a gem! The vivid color and black and white images by Mr. Abbott, complimented by the excellent lithography, just grab your eyes. And is there a more photogenic subject than Sonny? If you have never seen Mr. Rollins in live performance, the pictures will take you part way there.

Bob Blumenthal has taken a somewhat unusual course with the text. He treats each cut of the historic Saxophone Colossus album as an individual chapter. I found it very interesting to read a chapter, and then play the cut from my well-worn LP. His observations shed a new light on my understanding and enjoyment of the music.

I have to take friendly issue with Marc Myers who called this work a "coffee table" book. It's far too wonderful and informative to lay around gathering dust and stains! Indeed, it's become one of the most prized jazz books in my personal library.

Richard Mitnick

On the DVD "Saxophone Colossus" is most of Sonny's composition "Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra". I wanted to buy the music, it was very nice. I cannot find that it was ever recorded in its entirety. Anybody know of a recording?

I Witness

Colossus of Roads and Man of Bronze, whose face indeed is as the Son, holding aloft his mighty axe, the solo warrior challenging the very heavens while outlasting mere musical mortals. To disturb his hegemonic reign would require an earthquake at least...

Okay, so I wax foolishly poetic, reaching for imaginary parallels. The Saxophone Colossus deserves nothing less. Long may he guard the harbor of Jazz.


Happy Birthday, Sonny Rollins!

You've inspired all of us, with your melody & rhythm, your inimitable sound, and phrasing, your wit, and your humor (the cover to "Way Out West"), and your great compositions which all became standards: Oleo, Pent-Up-House, St. Thomas, Airegin; your "approach" to freedom in (jazz) music (and life!) like "Sonny Meets Hawk", or "East Broadway Run Down", or "Our Man In Jazz" -- timeless music, inspiring sounds which made the world a better place … At least for us musicians.

Your talent of digging up odd material, songs the (jazz) world had almost forgotten until you interpreted them freshly, as if they were brand new melodies, even as if they were *yours* at all:

I'm An Old Cowhand, Just In Time (simply beautiful!), My Reverie, The Last Time I Saw Paris, I've Told Every Little Star etc. etc. -- You made them your own, just like Bird did it with My Old Flame, or This Time The Dream's On Me … As soon as we play it, we're influenced by your versions. This happens quasi automatically.

I've heard you in person in Cologne's Philharmonie. Your sonorous, biting, ever present sound filled the air, and gave us so much joy … And something we had to work on with our own horns.

Thank you, Sonny Rollins, for being here. Stay happy, and healthy, and as humorous as you are.

All swinging' best,

Bruno Leicht, a fellow musician from Germany

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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