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Sonny Rollins blindfold test

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I had a look at the newest Downbeat and the blindfold is test is with Sonny. I was surprised he didn't recognize anyone--not Lovano, not Brekcer, not Branford Marsalis, not James Carter, not even Jimmy Heath. What's up with that? He did, however, have a lot of nice things to say about the music.

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Not sure about Heath, but i could easily see him not having listened to Brecker and co at all let alone enough to recognise them in a blindfold test.

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Why is that? He has been known to work with some younger guys (at the time): Roy Hargrove, Stephen Scott, and Branford Marsalis.

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if it's not age, than it is extremely telling that he does not recognize these guys.

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if it's not age, than it is extremely telling that he does not recognize these guys.

How so? Is it a reflection on Sonny's alertness, his listening habits, or what? Don't have the BF test in front of me, but when I looked at in the library, his comments seemed to be those of someone who was paying pretty close, careful attention to what was being played for him.

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I don't find it odd or unexpected that Sonny didn't recognize these saxophonists. He hasn't listened to contemporary recordings in eons -- in fact, he's been quoted a number of times (including by me) that has he has gotten older he has developed a kind of mental block about listening to recorded music and finds little pleasure in it. I was surprised, in fact, that he agreed to do a blindfold test. Perhaps his attitude/feeling toward listening to recordings at home is changing -- I remember him expressing regret about his condiction, like he really wished he COULD listen more. Of course, whether he recognizes the players is really of secondary interest compared to what he has to say, which I think is often fascinating. He's clearly engaged ... (Also, he actually did recognized Jimmy Heath.)

Now, to the extent that not listening to contemporary recordings or today's currents is "telling" in some way, opening up a window on Sonny Rollins the artist, that's a different discussion. But not recognizing Lovano, Brecker, Marsalis, etc.? No biggie.

FWIW, here's a "Before & After" from a few years ago. http://jazztimes.com/articles/27620-sonny-rollins-the-gentle-humble-jazz-giant

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Couldn't he have familiarized himself with their sound through hearing them in person? He never met younger players like Lovano etc.?

Edited by erwbol

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I don't have it in front of me, but yes, he mentions Jimmy Heath from that track.

His reaction/ratings are all positive. He praises Roscoe Mitchell solo tenor track highly, for instance.

Edited by Werf

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I don't find it odd or unexpected that Sonny didn't recognize these saxophonists. He hasn't listened to contemporary recordings in eons -- in fact, he's been quoted a number of times (including by me) that he has he has gotten older he has developed a kind of mental block about listening to recorded music and finds little pleasure in it. I was surprised, in fact, that he agreed to do a blindfold test. Perhaps his attitude/feeling toward listening to recordings at home is changing -- I remember him expressing regret about his condiction, like he really wished he COULD listen more. Of course, whether he recognizes the players is really of secondary interest compared to what he has to say, which I think is often fascinating. He's clearly engaged ... (Also, he actually did recognized Jimmy Heath.)

Now, to the extent that not listening to contemporary recordings or today's currents is "telling" in some way, opening up a window on Sonny Rollins the artist, that's a different discussion. But not recognizing Lovano, Brecker, Marsalis, etc.? No biggie.

FWIW, here's a "Before & After" from a few years ago. http://jazztimes.com/articles/27620-sonny-rollins-the-gentle-humble-jazz-giant

On that "Before and After" he recognized the ones who were worth recognizing.

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That Before and After was lovely.

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If I had Sonny Rollins' Unprocessed & Unfiltered Ideas running through my head all the time looking to be worked out/through, I don't know that I'd listen to records too much either...and if I did, I don't think it would be those of the people listed here.

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let me explain what I meant - years ago I was talking with Francis Davis about Rollins, and he told me about how he'd interviewed Sonny, who was surprisingly unaware of contemporary, young players who were significant; Francis agreed with me that this was a drag, because Sonny's band sucks so much (well, that's my characterization, not Francis') - and hence he has missed what I think would have been incredible musical opportunites to play with people who really were (nearly) his peers; hence we have had to put up with so much bad rhythm section over the years; for me, this has made Sonny almost un-listenable.

at some point Sonny became too valuable a commodity to really consolidate his incredible artistry (and don't get me wrong; sonny is not only a great great artist but one of the nicest people I ever met).

that's just my opinion.

Edited by AllenLowe

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It was never easy to be Sonny Rollins or Cecil Taylor or Ornette Coleman. Why don't we all complain and pick apart their actions.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb85Y2TZTp0

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Yes, I too have heard that Sonny doesn't listen much to recorded jazz, and apparently does little to follow young (and middle-age) musicians. And I'm sorry, but that does seem odd. As influential as he is, you'd think he'd want to be familiar with the work of those who have learned from him. Not that he is obligated to be up on these musicians.

He did the test and had plenty of good stuff to say; and, as someone said, he seemed quite engaged. But why do a blindfold if you're not a follower of the next 2-4 generations?

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JSngry, what's wrong with Heath, Lovano, Brecker, and B. Marsalis?

In the "Before and After" Sonny said he knew Motian, Lovano, and Frisell (though not that particular piece).

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Nothing wrong with them, but what would they have to offer Sonny Rollins other than the ability to name-drop with confidence?

At some point, an artist stops growing outward and grows inward. If they don't do that, then they've yet to find their voice, so...game not over, but lost. At least, that game. That's not to say that they shut themselves off from everybody and everything else, but as it pertains to their own pursuits directly with their instrument,..Michael Brecker made his first record in when, 1970? Think about how music saxophone Sonny Rollins had already played by 1970, not "styles" but saxophone. the instrument itself. what it can do, what it can't do, what you think it can't do but oh, looks like it can, By 1970, Rollins had heard, and lived with, a.o.Hawk, Prez, Byas, Bird, Trane, Ornette, and Ayler - real giants from within his own continuum that carved out space for themselves as foundational beings. What is Michael Brecker going to bring to Sonny Rollins' table about things you can do on a saxophone that are relevant to further becoming Sonny Rollins?

Not a knock on Brecker, or Lovano, or any of these people. They're all great musicians and fine jazz players. But I'll give you all their collected works if that's what it takes to keep one copy of, say, Sonny Meets Hawk or Alfie, never mind the Golden 1950s stuff that everybody's so damn stuck on as being the "apex" of Rollins or some such foolishness. Those are documents of a - another - foundational being. The other people are nice add-ons, but like all add-ons, they can be disappeared at no great loss to eternity. Not so the foundations, and there are reasons for that, not the least of which is that the foundations aren't always bothered with the need to keep up with P.R. niceties like being able to name-drop with confidence.

Would you expect Louis Armstrong to have picked out Donald Byrd in a Blindfold test? If so, why? Did Louis Armstrong "need" to hear Donald Byrd, or for that matter, Clifford Brown? Does Sonny Rollins "need" to hear James Carter? Hell, Sonny heard Lockjaw, what is James Carter going to tell Sonny Rollins that Sonny Rollins needs to hear?

Sonny made an album with Branford guesting on a few cuts. It sounded like a current Sonny playing with a 30 years younger Sonny - imitating himself. Nice for consumers, but relevant to Sonny himself, how, exactly?

These are artists, all of them, not consumers. It's one thing to know them as peers (or at least co-questers), quite another to get into knowing their work to the point of fanboy record-collecting them. Especially when you wonder what's wrong with an 80 year old man who has played as much music as Sonny Rollins has for not being able to recognize Joe Lovano in a Blindfold Test. I mean, really, that matters, at all?

What is it that makes people want to bring everybody down to their level? If Sonny Rollins aced a Blindfold Test of nothing but people who began playing post 1970, what, would that make him "better"? Or would that just make consumers feel safer about the good/great Medium-Sized Life that passes for "greatness" these days? Oh wow, Don't Ask, not so bad after all, instead of wow, Don't Ask,at once great AND not good at all, gee I have to think about this now...uh...this is hard...I think I'll play a Josh Redman record instead, that's easier, it's Always Very Good...Ahhhh...that's better now!

World gone wrong, Very Tall People are not Giants, simple as that, and killing all the Giants doesn't change anything.

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Nothing wrong with them, but what would they have to offer Sonny Rollins other than the ability to name-drop with confidence?

x1000. what on Earth, Saturn or any other celestial body do any of them have to offer Sonny Rollins except, at best, diversion? Hey, Joe Lovano, where you get them hats? Jimmy Heath a somewhat different situation and, one can argue, the very best of Frisell also tho' his, in recent decades, frequent-- and frequently banal-- worst does not make one inclined to charity.

One movement of any Mahler symphony, for example >>>>>> than all those guys combined, likewise one bird song, likewise whatever ambient sounds comprise Sonny's next performance of Cage 4'33.

Edited by MomsMobley

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Ok, I sort of get the gist of this...can't say I follow all of it.

it may be worth noting that it is perhaps unusual to feature such a long-time veteran for the text and play music of relative youngsters. The piece from Jazz Times worked differently, since they were playing people like Coleman Hawkins, Louis Jordan, and Jo Stafford.

But what about the whole thing of the veteran artist who not only knows the work of the next generation or two, but who is it very intent on working with them? We could start with the most obvious: Miles Davis. We can see it in Jackie McLean, Chick Corea, Stan Getz. We could go on and on.

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OK, these last few posts I have read seem to be coming awfully close to saying that once you are a jazz great you are simply a god-like entity who is entitled to ignore those who follow and try to add to the jazz continuum.

And do you believe that the point of the blindfold test is for the subject (Sonny in this case) to learn something in very practical and personal terms from the musicians who are played?

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But what about the whole thing of the veteran artist who not only knows the work of the next generation or two, but who is it very intent on working with them? We could start with the most obvious: Miles Davis. We can see it in Jackie McLean, Chick Corea, Stan Getz. We could go on and on.

Or we could look at Ellington who rode all his horses until they all dies, horse and riders alike.

It can go both ways, and what is important (to me) is not which way it goes, but why is it going there. There are those who are genuinely disturbed by what they percieve a Rollins' reasons. I'm not one of them, I figured the man figured out what he had to do to be who he wanted to be, and that was that, none of my business. Usually, I can easily dismiss that, but Sonny Rollins, I think most of us would agree, is not just a Very Good Jazz Player, the man knows like few others have known. So I get it that the glimpses of that knowledge have been deemed by its possessor to be an entirely discretion, at times, fleeting, and at even more times unrecorded for commercial consumption quantity frustrates some, infuriates other, and spurs an appreciation of the image than the reality in many/most more. I get taht, but, again, to me...not bothering me.

People want warm/fuzzy, hey, go sit on Santa's lap, with or without the suit on.

Sonny Rollins ain't here to be no Santa Claus, even now. Let's not anybody be confused about that.

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And do you believe that the point of the blindfold test is for the subject (Sonny in this case) to learn something in very practical and personal terms from the musicians who are played?

Oh hellfukingodddamn no. No.

The point of these damn things is to sell magazines and for musicians to get face time.

The notion that anybody goes into these things to "learn" is...laughable.

Look - Sonny's old, widowed, and for the last year, more or less musically incapacitated. He's a great figure in this music, and a bit of a personal idol to me - which is why all the, by any objective standard - extreme inconsistencies of his commercial output do not bother me (that, and the fact that the inconsistencies are anything but a Sonny Stitt-ish Autopilot being turned up or down to varying degrees). I'm glad that Bret Primak and whoever else is getting him out in public like this is doing so, it seems to be a level of engagement that he both needs and welcomes during this period of his life.

But geez, be happy that he's happy and end it there. Anything past that is just weird.

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OK, didn't Duke record with such young punks as Coltrane, Mingus, Max Roach, and Clark Terry?

I don't know what you are reading into my posts, or those of others, but I would be the last to dispute Sonny's greatness, the last to question his musical decisions, and the first to agree that any blindfold test will do nothing to change perspective on the man/musician.

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I actually would be curious to know what Sonny thought of this--

"J. Litweiler" opined--

http://jazztimes.com/articles/13458-freedom-suite-david-s-ware-quartet

also this, which is remarkable on # of levels not least Leonard Cohen, who had to be thrilled, keeping it intensely cool--

To suggest Motian, Lovano etc exist on the same plane of achievement as Leonard Cohen-- let alone Sonny-- is sheer delusion or parochialism btw.

Edited by MomsMobley

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