Sonny Rollins: Colossus Comes Home
On Nov. 29, 1957, a 27-year-old tenor saxophonist from Harlem made his Carnegie Hall debut in a program featuring Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and the Thelonious Monk Quartet featuring John Coltrane. The saxist, Sonny Rollins, brought with him a recent invention for the date: a groundbreaking piano-less trio featuring bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny Dennis.
To commemorate that historic night, Rollins returned to hallowed ground at 57th Street & 7th Avenue on Sept. 18 with a new strolling trio including bass phenom Christian McBride and Rollins’ bop-era peer, the drummer Roy Haynes. The set list—“Moritat,” “Sonnymoon for Two” and “Some Enchanted Evening”—remained unchanged, as did the boundless interplay of a group that didn’t have to answer to chordal harmony. In the program’s second half, Rollins was accompanied by his regular working band.
JazzTimes photographer John Abbott had exclusive access to shoot the trio performance, as well as the three days of rehearsals and backstage banter that led up to it.