Sonny Rollins - speaking the absolute truth.

Sonny Rollins - speaking the absolute truth.
Sonny Rollins – speaking the absolute truth.

– Sonny Rollins Trio – In Session for Swiss Radio, Zurich –  March 5, 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

The legendary Sonny Rollins this weekend, recorded in session for Swiss Radio on March 5, 1959. Joining Sonny (as in the rest of the 1959 European tour) are Henry Grimes on Bass and Pete LaRoca on Drums.

By 1959, Rollins had become frustrated with what he perceived as his own musical limitations and took the first – and most famous – of his musical sabbaticals. While living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he ventured to the pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge to practice, in order to avoid disturbing a neighboring expectant mother. Today, a fifteen-story apartment building named “The Rollins” stands on the Grand Street site where he lived. Almost every day from the summer of 1959 through the end of 1961, Rollins practiced on the bridge, next to the subway tracks. Rollins admitted that he would often practice for 15 or 16 hours a day, no matter what season. In the summer of 1961, the journalist Ralph Berton happened to pass by the saxophonist on the bridge one day and published an article in Metronome magazine about the occurrence. During this period, Rollins became a dedicated practitioner of yoga. Rollins ended his sabbatical in November 1961. He later said “I could have probably spent the rest of my life just going up on the bridge. I realized, no, I have to get back into the real world.”

Luckily, almost the entire 1959 European tour was recorded and available in various forms over the years. If you’re a fan of Sonny Rollins you no doubt have this. But if you’re just discovering him, here is another example of someone who has been a major influence on Jazz over the years – thankfully, still with us and still influencing. They don’t call him Colossus for nothing.

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