JazzTimes

BRIGHT MOMENTS: SONNY ROLLINS

“I don’t listen to my own music,” Sonny Rollins said in October from his Woodstock home, chewing a Ricola cough drop as he got ready to reflect back on a lot of it. The one exception is if it comes on the radio he often has playing in the background. Yet he did listen to and approve of Rollins in Holland, the recently released discovery from Resonance Records in partnership with the Dutch Jazz Archive. The album unearths more than two electrifying hours of music recorded live and in the studio in the Netherlands in May 1967 with drummer Han Bennink and bassist Ruud Jacobs. (Full disclosure: I wrote a 9,000-word essay for the album booklet that covers the live and studio sessions in detail.) On those recordings, Sonny played a Buescher tenor he got in Holland in 1965 from the widow of a noted Dutch saxophonist, Jos van Heuverzwijn. He loved that horn so much he used to kiss it good night.

For this Bright Moments feature, we took Rollins in Holland as a starting point and moved forward chronologically through a mix of studio and live albums. “Probably most of the things you’re going to play I haven’t heard in many, many, many, many, many years,” Sonny said. The perennially self-deprecating jazz icon ultimately didn’t want to hear any of it, though: “I don’t want to have to say, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’” Hearing it, he explained, could bother him “for the next year, or the next life. Virgos do have that quaint thing about themselves.” One thing he does feel positive about is the cough drops he was chewing. “They’re the greatest,” he said, adding that he used to take several bags on tour to share with his band. “Anyway, I’m glad there’s something good that people produce in this world.”

Although he may disagree, Sonny Rollins has produced more good than most, and we barely skimmed the surface. I cover every one of his albums, and much more, in the biography I’ve been writing for the past five years, , based on extensive archival research and conversations with Sonny and more

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