Interview with Sonny Rollins pt. 4

Here’s pt. 4 of my oral history interview with Sonny Rollins. This excerpt: Drawn To The Saxophone

Sonny Rollins interviewed by Larry Appelbaum pt 3 Drawn to the Saxophone


Before & After: Lou Donaldson

If we’re lucky, Lou Donaldson will write his autobiography. He was not only in the thick of things during the hard-bop, soul jazz and funky crossover eras, but the 82 year-old alto saxophonist has stories to tell, a biting sense of humor and, as he showed in front of an audience at the 2009 Portland Jazz Festival, he shoots from the hip.

1. Hank Crawford
“Save Your Love For Me” (from Low Flame High Hear, Label M). Crawford, alto saxophone; James Clay, tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper, baritone saxophone; John Hurt, Phil Guilbeau, trumpet; Sonny Forrest, guitar; Edgar Willis, bass; Bruno Carr, drums. Recorded in 1966.

Before: [after two notes of saxophone]. That’s Hank Crawford; Beautiful tone, beautiful soul, from Memphis, Tennessee. He came up with me. We met in the ‘50’s, he was playing with Ray Charles. He wrote arrangements for Ray, too. If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play no jazz, I don’t care who it is or how much you study. Continue reading

Before & After: Anat Cohen

This B&A was recorded May 14-15, 2009. It first appeared that same year in JazzTimes.


Since graduating from the Berklee College of Music, clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen has kept a full calendar leading her own groups, working in various jazz, Latin and Brazilian bands, and co-owning a label, Anzic Records. For a spring concert date, the young Israeli-born veteran gathered her 17-piece big band in New York, rented a bus for the 4-hour drive to Washington and drove straight to the Kennedy Center for sound check. With no time to rest or relax after, we met in her hotel lobby for this session. Despite a steady stream of sidemen distractions, her concentration was focused and she was visibly moved by several selections, especially the Eddie Daniels-Roger Kellaway piece. Cohen felt bad that we didn’t get to finish, so she insisted on meeting early the next morning to conclude before returning to New York. In addition to her busy touring and performance schedule, Cohen’s record label Anzic has just released its 18th title. Her latest release as leader is Notes From The Village.

1 Ken Peplowski

“You Do Something To Me” (from Mr. Gentle & Mr. Cool, Concord). Peplowski, clarinet; Hank Jones, piano; Frank Tate, bass; Alan Dawson, drums. Recorded in 1990.

Before: Woo! What a great technique, swinging. I like the fire in the playing, the drive. It’s straight ahead, someone who comes from the Benny Goodman tradition, but it’s more modern. The time is very on top, a percussive kind of playing. All the little trills, the swing ornaments are there. He or she is really interacting with the drummer. I like it, it’s a nice, round sound.

After: Kenny is one of the reasons why I returned to playing clarinet. I got to hear him a lot playing live. He has a beautiful tone and great control over the instrument and he really swings. He’s a witty, funny man and you hear humor in his playing. I really like this.

2. Nilson Matta

“Day and Night” (from Walking With My Bass, Blue Toucan). Matta, bass; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Anne Drummond, flute; Cyro Baptista, percussion. Recorded in 2006.

Before: It’s Brazilian. Nice partido-alto rhythm. Night and Day? Wow. Nice groove on the bass. The bass hypnotizes me; it’s moving, like an elastic pole moving from side to side. And I like those quarter notes that you can bite into. It’s a great arrangement–airy and spacious. I’m loving it. I don’t know if it’s Brazilian or American-Brazilian. Sounds like a combination, in between steady rhythm and broken. It’s very special. The two tenors who sound like that are Stan Getz and Harry Allen, but the rhythms were different than what Stan Getz would play.

After: It’s Nilson. I should really know this CD. I’m sorry, Nilson. It’s beautiful. And Cyro always plays the traditional rhythms that groove, but he also adds other sounds giving it a different, exotic flavor. Is it only Cyro, or is Duduka on this? Is this a new album? It’s beautiful. I know Nilson since I moved to New York 10 years ago. Anne Drummond sounds great on this.

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