Sonny Rollins – “The Bridge”

Sonny Rollins on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1966 (Photo: David McLane/NY Daily News Archive)

On this date in 1962, saxophonist Sonny Rollins wrapped the recording session for his album The Bridge at RCA Victor Studio B in New York, laying down two final tunes — “Without a Song” and “The Bridge” — before stopping the tape for good. The album was his first release after a three-year, self-imposed sabbatical, which he took as a corrective against his sudden and dizzying rise to fame. Its name comes from one of Rollins’ peculiar practice habits during that time. As legend has it, the saxophonist would take his horn to the Williamsburg Bridge to play in solitude for up to 16 hours per day, serenading only himself and the wind.

The experience had a profound impact on Rollins’ sound and style. As you can hear on the album’s title track, his playing has a voice-like, almost narrative quality; it’s the sound of a gifted orator holding forth on a topic he knows inside and out. Joining him on the recording are the guitarist Jim Hall, the bassist Bob Cranshaw and the drummer Ben Riley, musicians who would accompany the saxophonist through the next phase of his career.

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