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I think you know must know by asking that question that many jazz tenor saxophone lovers believe Sonny is the greatest of them all. I'm one of them. I have a feeling perhaps you are as well, but regardless there are many who believe and feel that way. Sonny is certainly not an egotist to be or saying anything about how fantastic he is, but there is no other saxophonist who can play on his level IMO. It has to be IMO, but I believe it to be true. Trane was also amazing and sometimes I prefer to listen to him, but I don’t think competition is appropriate when speaking of musicians that great. It’s like a Bach Beethoven competition. So I do love Trane as well, but Sonny is Number #1 for me. The Supreme saxophonist. Speak of rhythm. Syncopation is the essence of jazz rhythm and Sonny is the quintessential master of Syncopation. If you truly understand that word, as I know you do, then you also understand why I say that about his playing. He can break up note sequences into amazing uneven inventive sequences that are magically fluid and resolve to the time or rhythm regardless of their uncanny spacing. That's just one unique aspect of his multifaceted talent. I point that out because you speak of jazz rhythm and who else has that extraordinary command of syncopation? No One. Plus there is his unfettered ability to transition from a tier of the melody to yet another tier that fits the flow sequentially; retaining the ability to continuously transcend the form of the tune itself to seemingly abstract heights, but then coherently resolving to the essence of the piece's context and thus exemplify the highest level of jazz as art. There are many excellent jazz saxophonists but Sonny is The Extraordinaire.

There is no one that I have come across currently who is remotely reminiscent of Sonny. I’m 76, lived in The Village from teenager to 45, and heard live Monk/Rouse, Trane, Miles, Mingus, McLean, Sonny, Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, and Ornette Coleman. One of the apartments I lived in housed The Village Vanguard in its basement. All I hear with current so-called Jazz saxophonists, that I don’t consider Jazz, but Jazz in name only, is a redundant technique. What has become the evolutionary focus of jazz for decades now, is a screechy shrill sound (called “bright“) that lacks inventiveness and aesthetics. Specifically what has occurred is that technique is now considered art, rather than technique being a tool of artistic creation. Technique for technique sake is not Art. I'm just glad I have a good sound system and friends from back then who also know. We know we were lucky to have directly experienced the post-bop scene in NYC. Nothing that is called jazz now is even vaguely reminiscent. Including, of course, Sonny Rollins.
 

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Did you see Coleman Hawkins by chance? I feel he is the most legendary jazz saxophonist, except for Bird, of course, that you could have seen live, given your time frame. Monk is pretty incredible to have seen as well, as is Trane. What about Booker Ervin? When you saw Mingus, do you recall if he was with him?
For sure I heard Booker Ervin a lot. He was Mingus's main tenor man for I don't know how long, I can't remember, but Mingus played The Five Spot for months at a time. And almost every time I heard him it was with Booker Ervin. There were few times that Mingus had guests like Eric Dolphy and one time Sonny Rollins was a guest. 90% of the time it would be Booker Ervin. Mingus also had Charles McPherson on alto later on. I liked Booker more back then now, but then again, I just heard a Booker Ervin solo the other day that I loved, so it just depends on my mood. I never heard Coleman Hawkins play live. If he was playing in New York around my day I wasn't aware of it. I didn't like his playing that much back then. My initial encounters with most musician's playing was via the radio, listening to either Symphony Sid and Mort Feeger when I was in my late teens. When I heard him on the radio I didn't like his playing that much. I developed some interest in him about 20 years later. I bought a few of his 33's because I went through a Hawk phase. I'm very moody about the tunes that I like and don't like. I think his influence on Rollins was mainly tonal. The fact is I was very poor back then and could've heard a lot more music live, if I could've afforded the cover or the minimum. But I didn't have it but for once in a while. The Five Spot was the most affordable club. And the Half Note was kind of expensive. The Village Vanguard was very expensive but I could sit on the steps going down the basement sometimes and hear whomever was playing. Boomers was affordable later on. Boomers came later but it was right around the corner from my second apartment. I heard a a fair amount of Clifford Jordan who played there often. I stopped by Slugs a few times. I just know I heard Jackie McLean there, Bobby Hutchinson and I forget who else. I did hear a lot of Dolphy and Booker Little at the Five Spot as well and that's also where I heard Monk -Rouse often. It was like Mingus and Monk would take turns playing for extended month cycles. I went to concerts as well at places like Town Hall. I took a lot of LSD back then as well. So a lot who what and where is a blur but iI was fortunate to have been onthe scene more than a few times. Nothing like it. I missed the 50's. I didn't get started until the early 60's.
 
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