Hard Bop And a Kennedy Center Honor – Sonny Rollins’ A Night At The Village Vanguard

I played trumpet for a minute in grade school, but got bored with only learning marching band type stuff… They never played Miles, Bix or Dizzy

I switched to clarinet because my Dad owned one… I think I had a fleeting dream of mastering that instrument so I could move to the tenor sax.

Didn’t happen.  I sucked… Seriously.  I think my parents actually asked me to STOP practicing.  Guitar came and went… I still know a few chords, but I won’t be joining a band anytime soon… I did kind of stick it out with the harmonica, and while I have not played in a while, I can definitely hold my own there.  Recently I got a ukulele… I love it but really need to play every day…

The lesson for me… the key… is to stick with something, darn it… I have started a lot of things… a lot of things… I now need to fulfill the dream… complete the process… grasp the golden ring and the rainbow.  Bring it on 2012!

Sonny Rollins – A Night at the Village Vanguard

Thanks to Patrick for the reminder that Sonny was on the Kennedy Center Honors tonight…

I have had the pleasure of seeing Sonny Rollins several times… at the old Jazz Bakery doing the standards… at UCLA’s Royce Hall doing some calypso and some fusion from his 20th album, Global Warming.  The man is amazing.

He is the very opposite side of the coin in the discussion I brought up in regards to Charlie Parker… that eternal question… Does drug use enhance the music, the creative process or does it limit it.  Clearly it brings early death and while it can inspire notes and images, the question is, is it worth it?

Sonny Rollins would say hell no.

He was arrested for armed robbery in 1950 and spent 10 months on Rikers Island.  The two years later he was busted for heroin.  He was lucky though and was given federal assistance in kicking the habit… yet he was afraid that being off drugs would limit him musically.  He was wrong.  The creative output would sky-rocket.

In 1953 he was playing with the Modern Jazz Quartet and Monk.  In 1954 he would play in a quintet with Miles.  He was clean and he was shining.  Then he played with Max Roach… His Saxophone Colossus came out in 1956… and in 1957 “he pioneered the use of bass and drums (without piano) as accompaniment for his saxophone solos. This texture came to be known as “strolling”.

This album from 1957 is a highlight of this… Scott Yanow from AllMusic says “This CD is often magical. Sonny Rollins, one of jazz’s great tenors, is heard at his peak… Not only did Rollins have a very distinctive sound, but his use of time, his sly wit, and his boppish but unpredictable style were completely his own by 1957.”

This is a man who dropped out of the public eye for over two years to get better and practice, by playing the saxophone alone on the Williamsburg Bridge.  Amazing.

This record is amazing, full of fire and power.  It is what music can be and what music can do.  It will sock you in the gut… but in the best way possible.  It will grab you by the balls… again, in the best way possible.  Is there any other way?  Okay, yes, I guess there could be… You know what I mean!  And I do not need to spell out the equivalent for the gals… You know what I am saying.

I do not claim to be an expert on jazz… perhaps many of the musical intricacies go over my head… but I am moved by it and I like to think I understand it, at least to some degree.  The more I listen and see live, the more I comprehend… the more I fall in love and appreciate.  Certain players blow me away… take me to another place.  Sonny Rollins is one of those magical artists… a musician who goes beyond, who transcends…

I really wish I had made it to that tenor sax… But it’s all right… I’ve got Sonny Rollins.

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1 Comment

Filed under Life... Plain and Not So Simple, Marc's Mixed Bag - A Little Of Everything, Marc's Playlist - Music That Moves Me

One response to “Hard Bop And a Kennedy Center Honor – Sonny Rollins’ A Night At The Village Vanguard

  1. Coltrane also is an argument against the drug notion as was Clifford Brown, who consciously lived the best possible and most responsible life in order to counter it. His early death is tragedy no less great than any in American music.

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