Sunday, November 28, 2021
I have been listening to a lot of Sonny Rollins' work and posting about it on Facebook rather than here, in part because I wanted some feedback. There is, I am advised, a comprehensive scholarly biography of Rollins on its way, and that's a good thing because the only stab at it that's out there now is a work called "Open Sky" by Eric Nisenson that is pretty useless. It swerves from cut-and-paste to highly technical while employing a worshipful tone that belies any sort of critical acuity whatsoever. It doesn't have a discography, and it is so thinly sourced that it seems almost hermetically sealed. On the other hand Mr. Nisenson had Rollins' cooperation and spent considerable time interviewing Rollins, so it counts as an important text. Rollins seems like a pretty opaque character, even when he seems to be opening up, and I suppose it is possible that he says what he means the most clearly in his music, but that is really at the heart of the Sonny Rollins mystery. He is sort of the Schrödinger's cat of great jazz musicians: at some point his recordings leave off being brilliant and become oddly directionless. His reputation in the second half of his career was as "the greatest living improvisor", but the recorded evidence isn't really there. In order to understand his brilliance, we are told, it was necessary to have seen him live, when he was not being recorded.
The blurbs I've been posting on FB are placeholders- I'll be going into greater depth here going forward.