Sonny Rollins – The Bridge
There are so, so, so many reasons to love this album.
#1 Sonny Rollins
#2 Jim Hall
#3 Sonny Rollins & Jim Hall together
Them’s is reason enough.
But how about a narrative backstory so compelling that there is a movement afoot to have the Williamsburg Bridge renamed after Sonny Rollins?
Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
I’ve heard it said that Sonny Rollins is the greatest all-around soloist in the history of jazz, and it can be hard to argue against this assessment.
As an arch conceptualist with a broad conception of melodic possibility and an endless store of imagination and ideas, Sonny Rollins has historically been one of very few jazz players who can escort a listener along album-length improvisations without ever once repeating himself, unless it was intentional, and for effect.
While Coltrane did it with just a sheer, desperate, searching desire to reach something just beyond where he’d just been, Rollins does it with a sort of mathematical sense of play; he’s not a “math” player by ANY stretch of the imagination, but the rigor of his playfulness, the logic of his lilt, and the architecture of even his most out improvisations, are consistently and unfailingly works of geometric precision.
It’s all here on this release; an album many consider his masterpiece. He is at turns mysterious, playful, funky, angular, and swinging, and his enormous tone invites you into a sonic world totally owned by no one but Sonny Rollins.
Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders
There is so, so, so MUCH material to choose from when it comes to talking about Sonny Rollins. So, as a point-of-entry, because I need one, I’ll rely on the first album of his I ever heard. A friend gifted me this on cassette in the late 80s, and rarely a month has gone by where I haven’t listened to it at some point since. The cassette is long gone of course, but the music remains!
This is an album of some significance in the Rollins canon, as it was the last he’d record before his self-imposed 3-year exile from professional music; a sabbatical famously spent practicing on the Williamsburg bridge, and time off that would ultimately lead to The Bridge in 1961, upon his return.
The album was a West Coast date that featured Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Leroy Vinnegar, and Shelly Manne, all of whom were also “leaders” for titles on the Contemporary label.
The album is so playful, and inspired, and it swings so hard, and it’s just truly a joy to hear this music. Highly, highly recommended.