Sonny Rollins Quintet – Live in Tokyo – September 19, 1963 – NHK Radio-Tokyo –
The legendary Sonny Rollins this weekend. With his quintet, featuring Betty Carter on vocals, Rashid Ali on trumpet, Paul Bley, piano – Henry Grimes, Bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. Recorded in Tokyo by the NHK Radio Network on September 19, 1963.
Only fitting we grab a few words from his website:
In 1956, Sonny began recording the first of a series of landmark recordings issued under his own name: “Valse Hot” introduced the practice, now common, of playing bop in 3/4 meter; “St. Thomas” initiated his explorations of calypso patterns; and “Blue 7” was hailed by Gunther Schuller as demonstrating a new manner of “thematic improvisation,” in which the soloist develops motifs extracted from his theme. Way Out West (1957), Rollins’s first album using a trio of saxophone, double bass, and drums, offered a solution to his longstanding difficulties with incompatible pianists, and exemplified his witty ability to improvise on hackneyed material (“Wagon Wheels,” “I’m an Old Cowhand”). “It Could Happen to You” (also 1957) was the first in a long series of unaccompanied solo recordings, and The Freedom Suite (1958) foreshadowed the political stances taken in jazz in the 1960s. During the years 1956 to 1958 Rollins was widely regarded as the most talented and innovative tenor saxophonist in jazz.
Rollins’s first examples of the unaccompanied solo playing that would become a specialty also appeared in this period; yet the perpetually dissatisfied saxophonist questioned the acclaim his music was attracting, and between 1959 and late ‘61 withdrew from public performance.
Sonny remembers that he took his leave of absence from the scene because “I was getting very famous at the time and I felt I needed to brush up on various aspects of my craft. I felt I was getting too much, too soon, so I said, wait a minute, I’m going to do it my way. I wasn’t going to let people push me out there, so I could fall down. I wanted to get myself together, on my own. I used to practice on the Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge because I was living on the Lower East Side at the time.”
When he returned to action in late ‘61, his first recording was appropriately titled The Bridge. By the mid 60s, his live sets became grand, marathon stream-of-consciousness solos where he would call forth melodies from his encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs, including startling segues and sometimes barely visiting one theme before surging into dazzling variations upon the next. Rollins was brilliant, yet restless. The period between 1962 and ‘66 saw him returning to action and striking productive relationships with Jim Hall, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, and his idol Hawkins, yet he grew dissatisfied with the music business once again and started yet another sabbatical in ‘66. “I was getting into Eastern religions,” he remembers. “I’ve always been my own man. I’ve always done, tried to do, what I wanted to do for myself. So these are things I wanted to do. I wanted to go on the Bridge. I wanted to get into religion. But also, the jazz music business is always bad. It’s never good. So that led me to stop playing in public for a while, again. During the second sabbatical, I worked in Japan a little bit, and went to India after that and spent a lot of time in a monastery. I resurfaced in the early 70s, and made my first record in ‘72. I took some time off to get myself together and I think it’s a good thing for anybody to do.”
Enjoy the gig.
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