Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saxophone Colossus Celebrates Sonny Rollins a True Musical Giant

Sonny Rollins recently turned 80 and part of the celebration is a superb new coffee table book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins (Abrams 2010) with Photographs by John Abbott and text by Bob Blumenthal.

Photographer Abbott has been photographing Rollins for twenty off years and was JazzTimes cover photographer for a number of years. The images in here come from a variety of sources including festival and concert performances as well as at his home, both his former apartment near the World Trade Center and upstate form New York City. There are a number of formal portraits mixed with Sonny in a silhouette with a festival audience in front of him. There are shots of members of Sonny’s Bands in some of the performance shots as well as some of individuals who had associations with Sonny over the years including a 2002 portrait of Max Roach. There are also pictures of Sonny with Roy Haynes and Christian McBride taken around the time of Sonny’s concert to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his Carnegie Hall Concert, and backstage as he examines album covers of his older vinyl albums that have been brought for signature. Black & White and Sepia toned images mix with color images and the images are marvelously reproduced.

Simply as a book of photographs of Sonny Rollins, one would have little trouble recommending this volume. Additionally it has the musings of Blumenthal on Sonny Rollins and his music. The book is divided into 5 chapters, each named for one of the tunes that Rollins recorded on the album “Saxophone Colossus,” which enables Blumenthal to provide some musical commentary on Rollins’ music and life. He not only discusses the specific performance but also a variety of other recordings and performances, and includes some discussion of the views towards Sonny’s music. This is obviously not a full biography of Sonny Rollins or a full detailed discussion of Sonny’s music, but Blumenthal’s discussion and the listing of performances in the Appendix provides a concise guide to the central core of Sonny Rollins considerable musical legacy.

For purposes of FTC regulations, I purchased my copy of this. I have seen it at one of the big national book chains and of course should be relatively easy to find online.

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