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Sonny Rollins - Jungoso

kernewegor

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I have just bought a Rollins double CD package from my favourite music shop in Truro comprising 'The Bridge' and 'What's New?'

One of the tracks on the CD 'What's New' - 'Jungoso' has Rollins in a most remarkable dialogue with Cándido de Guerra Camero on bongos and Bob Cranshaw on bass.

Making his instrument talk is about as close as I can describe it - a real tour de force. If you have ever wondered what you could gain from playing long tones, overtones and the rest, listen to this. And you get an object lesson in how to play bongos thrown in...

Here it is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa3z5SBY1qU
 

Colin the Bear

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While I have a healthy respect for the technical ability of Mr Rollins I find his tone abrasive and his phrasing annoying. Nice bongos though ;)
 

rhysonsax

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While I have a healthy respect for the technical ability of Mr Rollins I find his tone abrasive and his phrasing annoying. Nice bongos though ;)

Lots and lots of different sounds, styles and approaches for Rollins at different stages of his career. This is not my favourite period or sound, but it is still pretty good and certainly interesting.

For the "best" Rollins try recordings around 1956 to 1959 - majestic, beautiful, incredibly inventive. That period includes "Saxophone Colossus", "Way Out West", "Live at the Village Vanguard" and some incredible live recordings with just bass and drums in Europe.

Rhys
 

altissimo

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Well I liked it!! The 60's were a fertile period for Rollins - 'Our Man In Jazz' 'Alfie' 'East Broadway Rundown' etc, but then he got fed up and retired for a few years.
He's a wonderfully erratic player, brilliant and maddening at times, but that's what comes of playing new and fresh ideas every time - not all of it will work, but when it does you wonder where he gets it all from
 

kernewegor

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While I have a healthy respect for the technical ability of Mr Rollins I find his tone abrasive and his phrasing annoying. Nice bongos though ;)
Tone can be a put-off, I agree.

For instance, I like Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. I rarely have a problem with Dolphy's tone, but on one of his recordings (of Green Dolphin Street) his bass clarinet has an iffy sound (but who am I to speak?). I can understand people not getting into Dolphy, especially if they have only heard his more way-out stuff. The same with Rollins or anyone. Curiosity (what do others see in this?) sometimes makes me persist. Sometimes it still doesn't appeal to me. (Charlie Parker with Strings).

Ornette Coleman sometimes stretches my appreciation with his tone on some numbers. I keep listening to them from time to time, though - tastes can changes and develop.

What I like about Jungoso is its very unusual structure, the rhythmic element, Rollins' exploration of overtones and the rest, and his sense of structure - whacky and disjointed as it appears initially, a structure and a logic soon becomes apparent - but maybe that's just my whacky sense of form and anarchistic turn of mind...

Incidentally I hear a quote from the opening of Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor' somewhere in the middle of Jungosa, followed by a couple of playful variations of the 'I'm not really quoting Bach' tongue in cheek variety. Pete quotes it on one of his CDs, too.... Bach cooked up a 'hair standing up on the back of my neck' moment with that one....

An appreciable amount of personal preferences are probably based on little more than familiarity.

As they say in family planning clinics, "Familiarity breeds!" :rofl:
 

kernewegor

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Lots and lots of different sounds, styles and approaches for Rollins at different stages of his career. This is not my favourite period or sound, but it is still pretty good and certainly interesting.

For the "best" Rollins try recordings around 1956 to 1959 - majestic, beautiful, incredibly inventive. That period includes "Saxophone Colossus", "Way Out West", "Live at the Village Vanguard" and some incredible live recordings with just bass and drums in Europe.

Rhys

Agree. 'Saxophone Colossus' is one of my favouriteCDs.
 

kernewegor

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While I have a healthy respect for the technical ability of Mr Rollins I find his tone abrasive and his phrasing annoying. Nice bongos though ;)

I think you'll like this one, Colin - it had me dancing...

I must work up some calypso numbers - dammit, I have enough West Indian relations scattered about the Caribbean and the USA...
 

altissimo

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I think with timbre it's a matter of context - a rhythm and blues player using such a sound wouldn't raise any eyebrows, but if a jazz player does it, it's not 'jazzy' enough. Even though a lot of jazz musicians from that era started out playing blues gigs until they'd 'paid their dues' and were deemed good enough to play jazz.
From what it says on his website - sonnyrollins.com/biography/ Rollins started out as a Louis Jordan inspired altoist, before switching to tenor and following Coleman Hawkins before bebop came along and changed everything
I suspect that the harder edged tone on this and other 60's Rollins recordings may have been influenced by Coltrane, who Sonny was friends with, as well as some of the 'new thing' free jazz players- 'Our Man In Jazz ' has Don Cherry and Billy Higgins from Ornette's band and 'East Broadway Rundown' has Coltrane's rhythm section, so he was certainly looking for a freer way of playing in that period, even if it wasn't free jazz..
speaking of which... I can understand people not liking Ornette's tone, but it's how he sounds, whatever mouthpiece or sax he plays (I think he currently uses a Meyer on a low A Mark VI and uses a double embouchure) To me that's part of the point of listening to other musicians and getting to know their individual personalities. A number of my favourite sax players have tones that I wouldn't want myself, but they do such wonderful things with the instrument that I don't worry about it.
Not everything that Ornette's done is worth bothering with - I could live without most of his Prime Time recordings and the misleadingly titled 'Free Jazz' isn't too successful, but when he's on form, Ornette can improvise wonderfully and keep coming out with new ideas that don't rely on trotting out the same old jazz licks. And this, I think, is what Rollins is striving for, coming up with something new every time he plays, which explains his unpredictability..
I heard an interview with Stan Tracey about when he played with Rollins at Ronnie Scott's in the 60's and it was nerve wracking. Sonny wouldn't tell the band what he was playing or what key it was in and would suddenly change from part of one tune to part of another, in a different key, without warning, and somehow they had to follow all this.
 
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Nick Wyver

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I heard an interview with Stan Tracey about when he played with Rollins at Ronnie Scott's in the 60's and it was nerve wracking. Sonny wouldn't tell the band what he was playing or what key it was in and would suddenly change from part of one tune to part of another, in a different key, without warning, and somehow they had to follow all this.
Hmm...
Not sure what I think about that.
Part of me thinks it's just plain rude. What was he thinking? Was it a case of, "I'm the star - it's not my problem if they can't keep up" (well, actually, it is), is he just having a laugh at their expense or does he just not realise how difficult he's making it for the others? I've never been comfortable with the idea of music as a competition, cf. bebop, of course.
 

altissimo

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Hmm...
Not sure what I think about that.
Part of me thinks it's just plain rude. What was he thinking? Was it a case of, "I'm the star - it's not my problem if they can't keep up" (well, actually, it is), is he just having a laugh at their expense or does he just not realise how difficult he's making it for the others? I've never been comfortable with the idea of music as a competition, cf. bebop, of course.
I think none of the above, it's just the way he did things at that time in order to keep it fresh for himself and stop it becoming a routine - he'd been playing for 25 odd years by then, you try playing 2 or 3 sets a night, 5 days a week and still keep coming up with fresh ideas. Stan Tracey said it was both nerve wracking and exhilarating... and some of the finest improvising he'd ever been part of. He said Stan Getz was the worst guy to work with as a person, but the music was great.
What was plain rude was the Musicians Union quota system that prevented American musicians bringing their bands over here, so they had to play with British musicians who weren't familiar with their working methods and often had little time for rehearsal with musicians who'd just arrived in the country.
The John Coltrane Quartet and Miles Davis' quintet gigged with very little rehearsal and Wayne Shorter's current band can go onstage without knowing what they'll do next, so it's not impossible
The house band at Ronnie's were certainly good enough to cope with anything - Rick Laird on bass and Ronnie Stephenson on drums as well as Mr Tracey -
http://www.harkitrecords.com/rollins_vol1.html
Sonny Rollins Live in London Vol 2
the bootleg from 1968 has Tony Oxley on drums and he's not a man to shy away from a challenge
here he is from 1865, does it sound like a man who's on some kind of "I'm the star" ego trip? Is he having a laugh or being competitive? Or just playing really good music with a great rhythm section..
thank god not everyone's a cynical as you, Nick...:p
edit - for some reason the link didn't copy and paste - here's Sonny -
View: http://youtu.be/4iBtRP_JxFQ
 
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Nick Wyver

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Ta. Fair enough, although I'm not really as bitter and twisted as I might appear :) - and I'd certainly agree that the MU got it spectacularly wrong back then.
 

kernewegor

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Hmm...
Not sure what I think about that.
Part of me thinks it's just plain rude. What was he thinking? Was it a case of, "I'm the star - it's not my problem if they can't keep up" (well, actually, it is), is he just having a laugh at their expense or does he just not realise how difficult he's making it for the others? I've never been comfortable with the idea of music as a competition, cf. bebop, of course.
If you are good enough to be on stage with Rollins, you are good enough to keep up with him.

But - in any case - Rollins does not ignore the others - he listens... and when he plays, he interacts sensitively with the others...

At the Scott's gig the band rose to the challenge - but had they not, my hunch is that Rollins would have 'opened dialogues' and interacted with the others to create a musical whole. What would he have gained - professionally - by creating a shambles?

Playing "Follow me" is good fun in a jam session.

Doing it at a prestigious gig is daring, edgy.... but isn't that what jazz - at it's best - is about?
 

Colin the Bear

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I sit in with New orleans and Trad bands. The trumpet was playing What a wonderful world and slipped into stardust for the break. We never missed a beat. It wasn't to keep it fresh or anything clever. When a band gets to a cetain age these things happen.
 

kernewegor

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Agree, Nick, about music as competition, though...

Bugle Band Contest, the Panceltic, the Fleadh, the All Ireland Banjo Championships etc, etc. - comparing music with sport (who is going to win?) seems to me to be pointless.

Mind you, I did win with a song I translated for the Panceltic many years ago....
 

Nick Wyver

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(Replying to before kernewegor's last post) Well, yes. I've done it at jam sessions but not generally at paid gigs.
 

Sue

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If you are good enough to be on stage with Rollins, you are good enough to keep up with him.

But - in any case - Rollins does not ignore the others - he listens... and when he plays, he interacts sensitively with the others...

At the Scott's gig the band rose to the challenge - but had they not, my hunch is that Rollins would have 'opened dialogues' and interacted with the others to create a musical whole. What would he have gained - professionally - by creating a shambles?

Spot on.

I haven't been fortunate enough to see any of the older legends perform live but even listening to pro players today in a live setting I finding can learn a lot just by watching them interact with their band. I often wonder if the band is well established and have rehearsed for ages or if they have just got together for certain gigs. A mix of both I guess.
 

altissimo

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here's a rare recording of Sonny Rollins from 1966 - http://youtu.be/B6mjjtC2jiI
recorded on 6th November 1966 at the University of Reading, and broadcast on BBC TV in 1967 in the series Jazz Goes to College.
Personnel were Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Ron Mathews, piano; Jymie Merritt, bass; Max Roach, drums.
Intro tune: St. Thomas; the rest of the session is a medley including or quoting Night and Day, Will You Still Be Mine? , There is No Greater Love, and It's Now or Never.
Audio only, the BBC must've wiped the video tapes, so this is probably a tape recording someone made off the telly
 

kernewegor

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Yes, it says that it is a 'private recording' on the youtube blurb, and if it was taped from a television I guess that accounts for the poor sound quality.

Interesting, though. I find myself adjusting for the poor balance in my head!
 

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