SONNY ROLLINS: In Conversation



A Sonny Rollins concert is an event in the world of jazz.Rolling Stone once said that, in the future, people will boast of having seen Rollins perform, much as the lucky few now boast of having seen the great bebop pioneer Charlie Parker.

Rollins indelibly wrote himself into the pages of jazz history on June 22, 1956 with a series of nonpareil performances for the album Saxophone Colossus. It was hailed as a classic from the moment it was released, but for the then-25 year-old saxophonist, it was just another session in the course of a remarkable creative high that spanned almost three years. During that time he recorded fifteen sessions under his own name, beginning with Worktime in December 1955 and ending with Freedom Suite in 1958, with such masterworks as the aforementioned ColossusWay Out West,and the classic Blue Note album, A Night at the Village Vanguard sandwiched in-between.

In an interview you kindly gave me about ten years ago, we touched on your creative process, and you said that you would work around a fixed pattern and still leave the creative element sounding free, and that the essence of freedom in improvisation is both creative and formal. I think students, in particular, would be fascinated if we could explore these points in a little more depth, in order to try and discover how you conceptualize the improvisation process.

 Well, let me try and take a crack at it. The whole act of improvisation and really painting, it's the same sort of thing, you try and communicate a subconscious, if you will, and a higher power, an energy. So that is very interesting trying to create. I love this, because I feel that jazz improvisation is the ultimate. You have to create on the spot, the essence of this music from Louis Armstrong and all the great people who followed in his path. Clich playing may be okay to a point, and maybe you learn by playing clich's, but then you throw all of that stuff aside. It's just like when I am working a piece of music, I will study the music, I will learn the music. Maybe that's what I meant when I said there is some kind of formal aspect to this, so I learn the melody, the chord progression, in preparation for my instrumental improvisation.

Read more of the interview here

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