May 12

The first gem from my “Mother’s Day” box of yard sale records is a water damaged, scruffy, yet surprisingly playable copy of The Bridge, the 1962 studio album by jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins:

I don’t know if it’s the piano-less quartet, the tenor sax instrument itself or what… but this is it! This is the jazz record I’ve been looking for! I’ve been listening to this record non-stop since I got it cleaned up yesterday!

This was not what I was expecting. I’ve picked lots of jazz records over the past few months. I’ve listened to most of them in search of what reaches out, grabs hold and demands “pay attention!” Different styles, different eras, different instruments have mostly entertained, but still left me distractedly fiddling with my phone or otherwise unengaged.

I first played The Bridge while washing records, volume low… just some background ambiance. The next thing I know I’ve abandoned that task and am sitting on the couch just blown away by this music. This morning, a few more plays with a bit more volume and the spell persists…

Sparse at times, sax stereo left, Jim Hall on guitar stereo right, the double bass of Bob Cranshaw occasionally stepping out and everything kept in time by Ben Riley on drums, there’s room to hear each individual instrument in the soundstage. Other times Rollins’ sax and Hall’s guitar meld seamlessly, forming a whole new sound. The title track, a Rollins original, was the standout for me. Musical climb after climb with a freefall close behind.

The Bridge is bebop, but you can definitely hear the seeds of a more free jazz style planted nearby.

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