Sonny Side Up
Sonny Side Up
A Tribute to Sonny Rollins
Here’s the Man!
Who played the Guggenheim with great command.
Here’s the cat!
Who laid flat on his back and held his tenor high,
In the Five Spot Bar,
Playing like a star, Oleo and Four.
St. Thomas came as a surprise
When he waltzed off the stage and went out the door,
Stoopin’ and a turnin’, just one song per set.
Then Lucille just flew into his arms,
Whispering that she’s his lucky charm,
Sonny Side Up!
Night and Day, he walked up to the Brooklyn Bridge to play,
History was made that very day his sound
Blew from the bridge on high, Saxophone Colossus.
Doxy, in a new dimension,
Live at Village Vanguard.
Ole, Oleo, Ole, Ole, Ole, Oleo
Way out West was cool. There’s No Business like Show Business.
Sonny Rollins, Sonny Side Up.
Notes: It was a sweltering summer evening at the Five Spot Café when Sonny
played with his trio, the year was 1961. On stage sat Bob Cranshaw on bass
and Roy McCurdy on drums. My friend, the late Lester Sachs, an astounding
bassist, and I were 15 at the time. We managed to get into the club with both
our brothers ID. At one point during the last tune of his three one-tune per-set
format, Sonny literally leaves the stage. He strolls outside and plays to the
audience through the window. Simultaneously the rhythm section is keeping
up the rapid-fire tempo never missing a beat. Sonny returns and proceeds to
lays on his back under the piano while endless waves of improvisation come
out of his tenor sax. Lester and I sit mesmerized as he jumps off the stage
and picks up his wife Lucille as if she was as light as a feather, and then they
embrace. Three years later we got to play with Sonny at the Village
Vanguard. I was also in attendance at the Guggenheim Museum in 1972.
Rollins, Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Giufree had all received fellowship grants and
this event featured their music. Taylor and Giufree were very formal and
intense in their presentations. Sonny was the last on the program when he
began you heard his horn in the distance but you couldn’t see him. Suddenly
he appeared, strolling smoothly down the ramp, alone, carefree, improvising
lines, melodies and sounds for a half an hour and we were all blown away.