The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins

New York Review. Mar. 2024. 172p. ed. by Sam V.H. Reese. ISBN 9781681378268. pap. $17.95. MUSIC
Ninety-three-year-old saxophone great Rollins compiles excerpts from his notebooks, split into four chronological sections, which span from 1959 to 2010 and discuss everything from intricate music theories to the broad capabilities of the saxophone and the best posture and embouchure for playing. Edited by Reese (Blue Notes), the book also details Rollins’s strict exercise and dietary routines, his musical influences (including Coleman Hawkins), the pitfalls of the cutthroat music business, his balanced opinion of pop stars like the Crusaders and the Rolling Stones, and his favorite films and books. He warns about the perils of climate change and social injustice, underscores his goal of racial harmony, blasts the toxic U.S. consumer culture, and delineates the multiracial origins of jazz. As a devotee of Eastern religion, he emphasizes how improvisatory music is a reflection of life and a means to connect to a divine cosmic essence. Through his notebooks, Rollins emerges as a driven, humble, thoughtful, dedicated, persistent, and spiritual soul in search of a higher force through music.
VERDICT Illuminating diary entries by a jazz legend; highly recommended reading for fans, musicians, and general audiences.
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