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Hardbopjazz

Meditating on a Riff

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

Yes I am here -- our out there if you prefer. Basically, I agree with you.  I didn't hear Sonny live that much in later years, nor did I buy that many Rollins albums after a certain point, but nothing that I did hear in person or on record was up to all that I'd heard from him earlier on. At one point, in fact, I felt that Sonny was the most important living artist, maybe the most important man on the planet. So much strength, wisdom, insight, and humor, and his wisdom was his alone. I know -- that's too much of a burden to place on anyone.  But I don't think I was the only one who felt that way. The painter Alex Katz, FWIW, once  said that  the turning point in his career -- what inspired him in the late 1950s to paint in the way that became his calling card -- was listening over and over to "Way Out West."

I agree completely in terms of his status. Listening to Worktime, at the tender age of 14, basically led me to spend a lifetime dealing with this music in one way or another. And it's funny because yes, I listened over and over. Spent days in my room trying to figure out what the hell he was doing - and why - on There's No Business Like Show Business.

Though there was a night, in Binghamton, New York, when he played Strode Rode (circa 1974 or '75) and all things seemed possible..

 

Edited by AllenLowe

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OK, Jim  --  I'll raise you one, Here's one of my favorite but lesser-known vintage Rollins performances that epitomizes one of his key traits/gifts/you name it of that era that I didn't hear much from him later on -- his ability/even drive to sum up/compress in more or less sonata-form like climaxes what has been going on in a particular solo to that time  (there are several of them here). This is, of course, a hallmark of such recordings as the Prestige "St. Thomas," "Wagon Wheels," and many others of that era, and IMO of this recording too. In any case, the latter-day absence of those immense-in-musical-and-emotional-effect summing up passages and the substitution (if you want to put it that way)  of what amounted to a kind of associative discursiveness is what I began to find disappointing:

Also, something eventually happened to Rollins' sound, if "happened" is the way  to put it, which may have been in large part a result of him using a clip-on mic. Compare his sound on "What's My Name" with his sound on the two tracks you linked to. There is a definite difference, I think, and while preferences here are personal/individual (nor do I deny that Rollins himself might have been quite freely exercising his own preferences in this regard), all I can say is that Rollins' sound c. 1955-60 was an essential aspect of his expressive package, and that the change that I hear in his sound in his later playing was a change in more than his sound per se.

BTW, speaking of changes in Rollins' sound, the first big change came with "The Bridge" and his other RCA recordings, where his sound became a fair amount more intensely focused than it had been before, almost diamond hard. This I more or less "understood" at  the time; it flowed into and out of the whole withdrawal from the scene experience and (I'm fairly sure) his response to Coltrane, and it was in both senses urgent, an apparent emotional and aesthetic necessity. And  there are some recordings from the tail end of the '60s -- e.g. a sublime Scandinavian trio date with Henry Grimes and Pete LaRoca -- that sound like an extension of the Rollins of the late '50s on rocket fuel, but...

Sorry, that Scandinavian Rollins performance was from 1959 (see below):

 

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19 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

 

Even my wife (not a jazz fan really ) laughed and said "well that means he doesn´t like half of what Sonny Rollins did. I´d say from 1975 to 2012 (or when did he stop performing?) he still had a lot to say and had wonderful rhythm sections. I heard him in the late 70´s with Mark Soskin, Jerome Harris and Al Foster and if this is not a good rhythm section I don´t know what a good rhythm section is.....

I've been thinking about artists who go through many changes at the beginning of their careers but settle into groove they like for the last half of their life that may seem less adventurous than what they were doing at the beginning: Miles, Dylan, Sonny, Dizzy-- anyone got any other examples? Who knows what Coltrane would have done in the last twenty years he should have had. 

And I think I saw Sonny in every decade since the '60s.  The only time I was disappointed was in '64 or '65 when it seemed to me he was too influenced/intimidated by Coltrane.  IIRC he was accompanied by Grant Green!  (Did I hallucinate that?) 

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2 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

Though there was a night, in Binghamton, New York, when he played Strode Rode (circa 1974 or '75) and all things seemed possible..

I have to take credit here.  I was head of the Harpur Jazz Project at SUNY Binghamton that year when we brought in Sonny.  I signed the contracts, brought in the sound system, dealt with blowback from Lucille when we brought in a jazz-rock band from Ithaca to open the show.  Tickets were $2!!!  It made me very happy that you remember the show.

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Maybe my affinity to Sonny Rollins´ work of the 70´s is just a generation thing. I was born in 1959 and it´s natural I got to see all those giants "live" during the 70´s . That means, as teenager jazz lover of course you were aware of the outputs of those musicians in the 50´s and 60´s or even back to the 40´s, but you accepted  in a natural manner what those giants created  1, 2 or even 3 decades later.

Let´s say: As a boy probably you first heard a Prestige Miles or Rollins album, and then you went to your first concert and saw Miles with Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, James Mtume and had to switch to that and say "look that´s how he played in the past and thats how he plays now and you are here and witness what happens. And see.... decades later they wrote books about stuff like On the Corner or Aghartha......

With Rollins it was less radical: He started to use electric bass, maybe electric piano, maybe he would use a percussion player and would play some more rock-based stuff, but still he would pick up some old ballad.

So maybe we just grew up knowing there  was the past, the historical part of it.... all those Prestige and BN stuff (if it was not OOP which happened very easy during that time, you had to relie to some compilations) , and the present time , the heydays of the Milestone Label (I noticed that many festivals had artists on schedule that were Milestone Artists - Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter etc. ).

So maybe I have a special affinity to 70´s outputs of Miles, Mingus, Rollins, and all those, since this was the time we lived in, they were the musicians who had written jazz history, but they still were not really old (Rollins was maybe 40 and some years old, but had played with Bird, with Bud which had been a long time ago )  and in their prime, and as a youngster you looked at them as those who allready have written jazz history and go on writing jazz history.  

Edited by Gheorghe

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Keep Hold Of Yourself. That.

 

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9 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

 In any case, the latter-day absence of those immense-in-musical-and-emotional-effect summing up passages and the substitution (if you want to put it that way)  of what amounted to a kind of associative discursiveness is what I began to find disappointing:

 

I'm not disappointed when it is gets fully unfurled. When it does, I find it just as involving as anything Rollins ever played, sometime even moreso.

I'm still on record as advocating this most recent Road Shows album (Vol. 4) as one of the essential Sonny Rollins albums. It's pretty much unfurled from beginning to end.

I had gone through most all the 50s Rollins and much of the 60s stuff by, say, 1983 or so. I mean gone through it inside out. So, I know what that music was and still is. And I know that what came after is not that. But it is Sonny Rollins, and even with all the quirks and eccentricies that got layered between Sonny Rollins Product and Sonny Rollins Music, I could hear what it was and not be concerned that it was not that older thing (how could it be, what part of the jazz ecosystem was left that could have "supported" that?). And once the live shows started eking out, then the YTube vids, and later this last Road Shows thing, it became apparent to me, that the man did indeed keep hold of himself and probably can levitate.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I'm not disappointed when it is gets fully unfurled. When it does, I find it just as involving as anything Rollins ever played, sometime even moreso.

I'm still on record as advocating this most recent Road Shows album (Vol. 4) as one of the essential Sonny Rollins albums. It's pretty much unfurled from beginning to end.

I had gone through most all the 50s Rollins and much of the 60s stuff by, say, 1983 or so. I mean gone through it inside out. So, I know what that music was and still is. And I know that what came after is not that. But it is Sonny Rollins, and even with all the quirks and eccentricies that got layered between Sonny Rollins Product and Sonny Rollins Music, I could hear what it was and not be concerned that it was not that older thing (how could it be, what part of the jazz ecosystem was left that could have "supported" that?). And once the live shows started eking out, then the YTube vids, and later this last Road Shows thing, it became apparent to me, that the man did indeed keep hold of himself and probably can levitate.

Your choice of "unfurled" is interesting and to the point, I think. The Rollins I love was not a matter that much of unfurling but (to stick with the metaphor) of explosive unfoldings, of revelations of accumulating and revealed forces. In his own rather different way, Von Freeman was a genius at this art of statement/ variation, and powerful and scarcely to be believed summings up. Again, we like/respond to what we like/respond to.

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Indeed we do.

I kind of took Sonny deeply to heart when I got into college, where he was considered, at best, an older style player and at worst, a useless anachronism. This didn't seem right to me, because The Cutting Edge had just come out, and Side One of that record sounded and felt to me like a guy playing the motherfucking BEJEEBERS out of the tenor, just the sheer physicality of the playing knocked me on my ass, because, you know, I got a tenor, how do I even begin to get THAT SOUND out of it?

But no, in the world I was in at the time, "hip" shit began with Coltrane and ended with the Liebman/Grossman/etc. bag. That was all good, but you know, I did not want a sound like that out of my instrument, and I did not want a rhythmic flow like that. Nothing wrong with it, just not what I wanted. I wanted a Sonny type flow (and flow it is) going out of me and into, and then out of, the horn. Nobody, and I mean nobody, around me wanted that, and it wasn't until I began connecting with African-American players outside of the school environment that I began to be around other people who wanted that same flow.

So...I put up with the records and stopped listening to them as "Sonny Rollins Records" far less than I did lessons in how to get shit out of the tenor. There was THAT on most all of the records, and then, somewhere along the lines, the records actually started getting good again. And jeeeeesus, that sound. perhaps people who don't spend a lot of time blowing air into a tenor can fully appreciate how BIG that sound is, all over the range of the instrument, and how big it stays during all the dodges and darts of one of his dodgings and dartings, except when he wants to shade them, and even THAT'S always controlled. That picture of him on the back of Nucleus, I looked at that and say, ok, skinny and scrawny ain't gonna it you to where you want to get, here's even MORE work to do. I fell short on that (and many other things as well), but truth is still truth even if you yourself fall short.

At some point I looked back over the life, the records, and the playing and it dawned on me that the TRUE "message" of Sonny Rollins is to, as the song says, keep hold of yourself. Keep hold of you head, keep hold of your mind, keep hold of your soul, keep hold of your career, your destiny, and above all else, as he demonstrated on 9/11 quite literally, keep hold of your horn. You do it for yourself, because ain't nobody else going to do it, nor should they. It's up to you to know who you want to be, and it's up to you to make it work.

So yeah, I get that people who like one type of Sonny Rollins Music might feel some combination of betrayed and abandoned by the latter part of the arc (but really, at 40+ years, isn't it most of the arc?), but I am not one of them. Not even a little.

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11 hours ago, mjzee said:

I have to take credit here.  I was head of the Harpur Jazz Project at SUNY Binghamton that year when we brought in Sonny.  I signed the contracts, brought in the sound system, dealt with blowback from Lucille when we brought in a jazz-rock band from Ithaca to open the show.  Tickets were $2!!!  It made me very happy that you remember the show.

I was a student there, yes; there was also something called the Straight Country and Blues Committee which did incredible vernacular work. I also recall, on the same night a student was shot to death in the student center, a great Sam Rivers Trio concert; were you involved in that as well?

58 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

Your choice of "unfurled" is interesting and to the point, I think. The Rollins I love was not a matter that much of unfurling but (to stick with the metaphor) of explosive unfoldings, of revelations of accumulating and revealed forces. In his own rather different way, Von Freeman was a genius at this art of statement/ variation, and powerful and scarcely to be believed summings up. Again, we like/respond to what we like/respond to.

I do remember perhaps the first time I saw Sonny, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1969 or 1970; and a few of us went who had spent time listening to his Prestige and Impulse work; we sat there, he had a conga player and god-knows-what-else, and we kept looking at each other, wondering "when is he going to start playing?" It was all vamps and rhythm, drums and conga; and then, before it appeared to have even begun, it was over. 

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4 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I was a student there, yes; there was also something called the Straight Country and Blues Committee which did incredible vernacular work. I also recall, on the same night a student was shot to death in the student center, a great Sam Rivers Trio concert; were you involved in that as well?

I started there in fall 1973, and was head of the Jazz Project from 1974-75.  Besides Rollins, we put on Oregon, Weather Report and (a free show) Jack DeJohnette/John Abercrombie.   Funny that you mention the Sam Rivers show, which was in the fall of 1973.  I was there that night, and after 2 hours of high-energy music, the concert ended suddenly when the Social Hall was evacuated because of the shooting.  I saw Barry Altschul recently in Houston, backing Patty Waters, and asked him if he remembered that show.  He didn't.  I said "it was you and Dave Holland backing Sam Rivers."  He thought back and said "Are you sure it wasn't Reggie Workman?"  Do you remember who it was?

And yes, Straight Country and Blues.  They put on a lot of great folk festivals.  But so did Cornell.  It was a great time for music.

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I remember the bassist had a foreign accent, maybe European or South American, because we talked to him a bit. But English was not his native language. And I was very close to the shooting. It was pretty awful.

2 minutes ago, mjzee said:

I started there in fall 1973, and was head of the Jazz Project from 1974-75.  Besides Rollins, we put on Oregon, Weather Report and (a free show) Jack DeJohnette/John Abercrombie.   Funny that you mention the Sam Rivers show, which was in the fall of 1973.  I was there that night, and after 2 hours of high-energy music, the concert ended suddenly when the Social Hall was evacuated because of the shooting.  I saw Barry Altschul recently in Houston, backing Patty Waters, and asked him if he remembered that show.  He didn't.  I said "it was you and Dave Holland backing Sam Rivers."  He thought back and said "Are you sure it wasn't Reggie Workman?"  Do you remember who it was?

And yes, Straight Country and Blues.  They put on a lot of great folk festivals.  But so did Cornell.  It was a great time for music.

 

Edited by AllenLowe

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Arild Andersen, perhaps?

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

Your choice of "unfurled" is interesting and to the point, I think. The Rollins I love was not a matter that much of unfurling but (to stick with the metaphor) of explosive unfoldings, of revelations of accumulating and revealed forces. In his own rather different way, Von Freeman was a genius at this art of statement/ variation, and powerful and scarcely to be believed summings up. Again, we like/respond to what we like/respond to.

I think a legitimate question to ask, visa a ve the change in Sonny's approach, is whether his rhythm sections of that last part of his career were cause or effect. I tend to think a little but of both, with a lean toward cause. But I also wonder if Sonny just decided it was time to be more accessible. As for his damn clip-on mic, that was a major cause of the change in his sound; I hate that thing, which was tinny and limited in frequency range. What were they thinking?

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I don't want to wade in too deep here, but as short hand of my feelings, I would say (a) My favorite record of all time is "A Night at the Village Vanguard" (b) I'm happy with my life and choices, but if I could do anything, it would to be able to play like Sonny on a good night between 1964 and '68. (c) My views about the later work hew pretty close to Jim, even if I perhaps harbor a bit more frustration than Jim does on some points.  

Also, speaking of the sound, I've stood right next Sonny as he played acoustically, without a microphone, and that was the most expansive sound as I've ever anyone get on any instrument. Ever. Also, I heard him play about 4 minutes of "Three Little Words" at a Soundcheck around 2008 that rank among the most inspired four minutes of improvisation I've ever heard live.  

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14 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I think a legitimate question to ask, visa a ve the change in Sonny's approach, is whether his rhythm sections of that last part of his career were cause or effect. I tend to think a little but of both, with a lean toward cause. But I also wonder if Sonny just decided it was time to be more accessible. As for his damn clip-on mic, that was a major cause of the change in his sound; I hate that thing, which was tinny and limited in frequency range. What were they thinking?

They were thinking that Sonny needed to be able to walk around while he played. Probably so. And it didn't change HIS sound, it changed the MIKED sound.

Fortunately, the technology kept evolving and eventually got pretty good. Follow it on youTube.

As far as rhythm sections, the one of the Cutting Edge era was pretty solid, actually, the trio of David Lee (still probably my favorite Rollins drummer), Mtume, Bob Cranshaw got really locked in. And there have been other bands that the percussion gelled...it's a very specific feel/pocket, that Sonny Rollins vamp-feel, and no, not everybody got it all the time, but when they did, it was as distinct as the Trane/Elvin feel (and I'm not so sure that the original impetus of the Lee/Mtume thing wasn't to expand Elvin out to a multi-timbral tonal, Lee had SO many cymbal sounds + the kid, and Mtume was all up in there, between the two of them it sometimes felt like having Tony AND Elvin)). Some of the followups weren't that deeply seated, but there's definitely a model there to follow, and when that pocket hits, it's as real as it is good.

It's fair to ask if "accessibility" was a factor, especially in the early 70s where that was , like, THE "jazz discussion" that EVERYBODY was having. But you also gotta look at how different people went about it. Eddie Harris just said fuck it and kept on keeping on, he was ok with whatever, just new ways to go about what he was already going about. Miles took that shit waaaay out, took several decades for people to start hearing that. And Sonny, he had a plan - hard grooves, deep pocket, and plenty of bouncing off the tonal and rhythmic pedals of the compositions. Didn't always work for him, but the plan was there. His aim was to stand tall and strong, blow loud and long and...keep hold of himself. I take it that he was smoking a lot of weed during that time, and that's not really the best way to go about executing a plan like that, but...he got there often enough to where a fail WAS a fail, and a win WAS a win...same as it ever was for him, really.

Side One of The Cutting Edge...I wish there was a time machine to go back and record that gig with today's abilities. You shouldn't have to work that hard to hear what's really going on. but that shit is for real. Same thing with "Harlem Boys", I hate that I need to "translate" the sound of that record into what the real-time playing sounded like, but such is life.

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8 minutes ago, JSngry said:

They were thinking that Sonny needed to be able to walk around while he played. Probably so. And it didn't change HIS sound, it changed the MIKED sound.

Fortunately, the technology kept evolving and eventually got pretty good. Follow it on youTube.

As far as rhythm sections, the one of the Cutting Edge era was pretty solid, actually, the trio of David Lee (still probably my favorite Rollins drummer), Mtume, Bob Cranshaw got really locked in. And there have been other bands that the percussion gelled...it's a very specific feel/pocket, that Sonny Rollins vamp-feel, and no, not everybody got it all the time, but when they did, it was as distinct as the Trane/Elvin feel (and I'm not so sure that the original impetus of the Lee/Mtume thing wasn't to expand Elvin out to a multi-timbral tonal, Lee had SO many cymbal sounds + the kid, and Mtume was all up in there, between the two of them it sometimes felt like having Tony AND Elvin)). Some of the followups weren't that deeply seated, but there's definitely a model there to follow, and when that pocket hits, it's as real as it is good.

It's fair to ask if "accessibility" was a factor, especially in the early 70s where that was , like, THE "jazz discussion" that EVERYBODY was having. But you also gotta look at how different people went about it. Eddie Harris just said fuck it and kept on keeping on, he was ok with whatever, just new ways to go about what he was already going about. Miles took that shit waaaay out, took several decades for people to start hearing that. And Sonny, he had a plan - hard grooves, deep pocket, and plenty of bouncing off the tonal and rhythmic pedals of the compositions. Didn't always work for him, but the plan was there. His aim was to stand tall and strong, blow loud and long and...keep hold of himself. I take it that he was smoking a lot of weed during that time, and that's not really the best way to go about executing a plan like that, but...he got there often enough to where a fail WAS a fail, and a win WAS a win...same as it ever was for him, really.

Side One of The Cutting Edge...I wish there was a time machine to go back and record that gig with today's abilities. You shouldn't have to work that hard to hear what's really going on. but that shit is for real. Same thing with "Harlem Boys", I hate that I need to "translate" the sound of that record into what the real-time playing sounded like, but such is life.

Whatever, Jim. I think the Milestone albums are pretty much shite.

Sorry to enter the grown up discussion. Perhaps I should revisit some Milestone Sonny tonight. Silver City!

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Go for Road Shows 4.

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1 minute ago, JSngry said:

Go for Road Shows 4.

I only have 1 & 3.

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4 is the one, imo. Not really even close.

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15 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

 


Sorry, that Scandinavian Rollins performance was from 1959 (see below):

 

Swedish television actually recorded Rollins at Nalen in 1959. I can't find the rest of it online, but here's at least "Paul's Pal" :

 

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His aim was to stand tall and strong, blow loud and long and...keep hold of himself.

 

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Today -- August 19, 2018 -- marks the 32nd anniversary of Sonny Rollins jumping off a ledge in mid performance, because, well, Sonny Rollins. He broke his heel in the process -- but kept playing. Here's the film. Stay through the interviews for the incredible performance of "G-Man," one of Sonny's best post-1971 solos.

 

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