Thursday, June 29, 2023
Way Out West is generally regarded as a breakout set by Sonny Rollins, although he'd recorded pretty extensively as a leader in the years leading up to it, including arguably his most recognizable side, Saxophone Colossus. Part of the basis for this assessment is probably due to what was then a somewhat unusual decision to make the recording without a piano player. This became pretty much standard for Rollins in going forward, although from time to time, (notably on The Bridge), he'd work with a guitarist who'd fill the role a pianist might occupy. It's also where Rollins started leaning more on improvising on standards or on novelties rather than playing his own compositions, although of course he kept writing. He absolutely had a deep knowledge of what we now call the American Songbook, and he could get really creative with it.
For me, however, the significance of Rollins' work for the Contemporary label, which has just been reissued as a box set is that it illustrates an aspect of his career that seems to be largely unremarked upon. Starting in 1953 he recorded nine albums for Prestige and one on Blue Note before Way Out West. He was prolific, but that's not the point. Over that period he really never had a working band. He was a sideman with Clifford Brown and Max Roach's band. After his famous four year sabbatical he worked with Jim Hall on two sets for RCA, and Bob Cranshaw was a mainstay on bass. After two years he left RCA, recorded some things for Impulse! and then moved to Orrin Keepnews' Milestone for pretty much the rest of his career. There are those who disagree, but the Milestone material is, to my ears, mixed, and I think this reflects the lack of continuity with other musicians. Sonny never seems to have taken the horn out of his mouth long enough to listen to anyone else in the studio or on the stand, and it seems like Keepnews never told him that maybe that would be a good idea- or at least to try it. Since comparisons with John Coltrane are an inevitable part of any discussion about Rollins it is interesting to consider that Trane was recording for the music arm of ABC, while Milestone was really an independent. (I don't know who handled Milestone's distribution, but whoever it was probably didn't have the marketing muscle of Impulse!) No doubt Keepnews hoped that Rollins would be the foundation for his enterprise that Coltrane was for Creed Taylor's, but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way, commercially or artistically.
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Number 23 at my polling place this morning at about 8:30.
The scanner broke just as we arrived, so our ballots went into the "Emergency Drawer". I miss the big mechanical machines every time I vote
Monday, June 05, 2023
Chuck Berry. Unmentioned in this article is that "The Promised Land" is a travelogue about the civil rights movement. Heard that way it is as important an anthem as anything Bob Dylan ever wrote, but it is done subtly, as a celebration rather than a protest.
Thursday, June 01, 2023
Some years back a judge called us and asked us if we would take over the representation of two women who had been horribly sexually abused while in foster care. They had a lawyer, but the judge thought he was was out of his depth. We took it, of course. Tilting at windmills was sort of a specialty of ours. The women were sad, damaged individuals and one of the things that stands out for me about the experience is that we spent the day of 9/11 driving around Buffalo looking for them. They were more or less homeless, and the trial of their case was coming up. In fact, there was a motion by the County for summary judgment pending (or maybe it had just been decided in our favor? I can't recall). In any event, the County moved to re-argue and won- the duty a municipality has towards foster children is shockingly slight. I can't recall how we managed to pull out the win in the first place, actually. We were on the case because we had a reputation for creativity but whatever creative argument it was that we made wasn't enough for the judge that asked us for the favor.
Today I got a call from a lawyer who has been consulted by the women who want to know if the Adult Victims of Sexual Abuse statute applied to them, and it dredged up a deep feeling of remorse. For the most part I am very aware of the limits of the tort system, and if I am being realistic I know that even if we'd prevailed there was nothing that could have made these women whole. We lawyered the hell out of it, and here they still are. We couldn't help them, and the fact that we tried our damnedest and still couldn't fills me with grief