Tag Archives: Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins and thematic improvisation

 

Sonny Rollins’s extensive use of improvised thematic development in his 1956 recording of Blue 7 marked a new level of musical evolution for jazz.

Jazz improvisatory procedures may be divided into two broad and sometimes overlapping categories: paraphrase and chorus improvisation. The former consists mostly of an embellishment or ornamentation technique, while the latter suggests that the soloist has departed completely from a given theme or melody and is improvising freely on nothing but a chord structure.

Most improvisation in the modern jazz era belongs to the second category, and Rollins’s recording is a landmark for maintaining thematic and structural unity in this type of playing.

This according to “Sonny Rollins and the challenge of thematic improvisation” by Gunther Schuller; this foundational work of jazz analysis from 1958 is reprinted in Keeping time: Readings in jazz history (New York: Oxford University Press 2015 193–202; RILM Abstracts 2015-155).

Today is Rollins’s 90th birthday! Above, the artist around the time of the recording; below, the recording itself.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, Performers

John Abbott, jazz photographer

Throughout his career, John Abbott’s award-winning images of jazz have been featured on over 250 album and magazine covers; he has been the primary cover photographer for JazzTimes magazine since 2002.

On 7 September 2010, the 80th birthday of the jazz legend Sonny Rollins, Abbott’s Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins was published by Abrams. As Rollins’s photographer of choice for the past 20 years, Abbott captured images of him at home and at work; essays by the jazz critic Bob Blumenthal are included.

Below, Abbott and Blumenthal discuss the making of the book.

Related article: The Jazz Baron

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Filed under Iconography, Jazz and blues