The Bridge

The Bridge

When tenor saxophone giant Sonny Rollins began a two-year hiatus from performing in 1959, his focus shifted to long practice sessions on the Williamsburg Bridge. This image of the artist turned inward, alone in the downtown cityscape, has become a part of New York lore, leading to a plausible campaign to have the bridge named after him. The Bridge, recorded for RCA Victor in early 1962, is an allusion to this period of introspection, an album that officially ended Rollins’ hiatus and unveiled a new quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Ben Riley. Hall’s guitar gives the music a sound sparser and more intimate than a piano (the common choice for horn players in this idiom), and his economy of singing notes and pared-down chords conceals a burning swing intensity within. “Where Are You” and “God Bless the Child” enter the annals of classic Rollins ballad performances, while the blissful medium tempos of “Without a Song” and “You Do Something to Me” find the quartet deep in sync, at the peak of their improvising powers. Two originals—the halting, Thelonious Monk-like “John S” and the uptempo title track—hint at the kind of adventurous, harmonically open approach Rollins would soon explore in quartet settings with Don Cherry.

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