Song of the Week – The Bridge, Sonny Rollins


In one of the most humble acts in human history, Sonny Rollins interrupted his lucrative career as a jazz saxophonist in order to hone his craft more fully. Even though he was already well established in the jazz circles – having played with luminaries such as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman, and recorded more than 20 albums – in 1959, at the tender age of 29, he nevertheless decided he needed to drop out of the scene and woodshed in order to take his game to the next level. He spent the next three years in relative seclusion, practicing his playing under New York’s Williamsburg Bridge for most of each day, in all kinds of weather and through all four seasons.

In April 2015, Rollins told the New York Times:

“The problem was that I had no place to practice. My neighbor on Grand Street was the drummer Frankie Dunlop, and his wife was pregnant. The horn I’m playing, it’s loud. I felt really guilty. One day I was on Delancey Street, and I walked up the steps to the Williamsburg Bridge and came to this big expanse. Nobody was there, and it was beautiful.”

He returned in 1962 with his album titled The Bridge. Today’s SotW is the title song from that album.

In an article from the AV Club, Joseph Heller describes the beauty of the piece:

Like a runaway daydream, “The Bridge” is both frenetic and meditative, the sound of a scattered mind exulting in its own agility. Hall and Rollins trade solos like sparring tides; the rhythm section of bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Ben Riley lock into a fleet, liquid-tempo syncopation. But rather than trying to hop on the bandwagon of free-jazz abstraction, the Rollins composition reflects a very real set of coordinates in emotional space-time: when he stood below that bridge, day after day for months on end, pouring out his soul. What it must have been like to be a random passerby during those years, hearing the song’s embryonic skronk slowly coagulate into a masterpiece.


Enjoy… until next week.

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