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The guy who really seems to be carrying Sonny’s mantle is Joel Frahm. The blues influence, the quotes/depth of musical knowledge, and the rhythmic approach - particularly his ability to create the illusion of bending time using note groupings/rhythms that don’t “fit” neatly into the time signature - all strikes me as very Sonny-ish in its conception. For what it’s worth, I don’t hear nearly as much of that flowing in and out of the time with Potter’s (or really any of the other heavy modern players) like I do with Joel.

Check out his solo on segment with lage lund in 2012 on YouTube for a killer example.
 

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The universe is bigger than this forum. I don't think many would deny his greatness, but I have seen people say they hate his tone, just as some say player X had intonation issues. After long enough on the web and forums, you begin to learn that posting negatives says more about you than the topic in question.
Do you like every Sonny Rollins song equally? Of course not. So not everyone will like every song, or every player, equally. As for your profound observation on human nature, for which the world surely thanks you, the same goes for posting positives; for posting period.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
The guy who really seems to be carrying Sonny's mantle is Joel Frahm. The blues influence, the quotes/depth of musical knowledge, and the rhythmic approach - particularly his ability to create the illusion of bending time using note groupings/rhythms that don't "fit" neatly into the time signature - all strikes me as very Sonny-ish in its conception. For what it's worth, I don't hear nearly as much of that flowing in and out of the time with Potter's (or really any of the other heavy modern players) like I do with Joel.

Check out his solo on segment with lage lund in 2012 on YouTube for a killer example.
Thanks for that, I'd never heard of Frahm. Even this first random blue that came up on YouTube, I can hear the approach.
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Grant Stewart
Yes, he's definitely in there. It's interesting that listening to these great players, when you're listening for "Sonnyness", more of the concept becomes obvious. Sonny doesn't just have his natural sometimes playful, sometimes quirky rhythmic phrasing, he and the others mentioned here also play far back on the time.

I think the head of "Get Happy" shows this "Sonnyism" well and he goes on more in the solo. This tune distills a lot of makes Sonny Sonny.

 

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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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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
I think there have been some excellent suggestions from many of the folks replies and I thank you all for these. I haven't heard of any other than Chris Potter, Zoot and Bob Reynolds.
 

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Well, it's one thing to throw around encomia and superlatives, and it's another to post videos of great current players, but I think the original question was about Rollins' rhythmic sense.

Even at his time there were few players who would routinely play such rhythmically varied lines. And I'm talking about the greats. Parker's rhythmic patterns, if you study his transcribed solos, tend to be consistent and recognizable. Trane had certain types of rhythmic patterns he would play predictably, though the nature of them changed depending on what he was working on at a given period in his life. Stitt - very exciting player, but you can predict there'll be long strings of eighth notes with a couple of very characteristic rhythmic patterns to terminate a line. And so on.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying these great players were "formulaic" or that they weren't creating at the very highest level. But one thing that makes Rollins distinctive is the extreme variety of rhythmic patterns he uses, and the way he will so often play something unexpected.

Most of the great current players I hear tend toward long lines with a lot of eighth notes, a driving forward feel, creating a lot of excitement - but I don't hear a lot of that dry, every bar dramatically different, Rollins rhythm.
 

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Screenshot of a Trane transcription (likely courtesy Andrew White) of the end of a solo on "I Want To Talk About You"...notable for his "rhythmic predictability" :)
Font Material property Art Pattern Parallel
 

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Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying these great players were "formulaic" or that they weren't creating at the very highest level. But one thing that makes Rollins distinctive is the extreme variety of rhythmic patterns he uses, and the way he will so often play something unexpected.

Most of the great current players I hear tend toward long lines with a lot of eighth notes, a driving forward feel, creating a lot of excitement - but I don't hear a lot of that dry, every bar dramatically different, Rollins rhythm.
I just recently went back and listened to Chris Potter's 2002 album "Traveling Mercies". Check it out. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there wasn't a single "run" (defined as a set of more than 8 rapid equal-length notes, such as 8ths, 16ths, triplets, etc.) on the entire album!
 

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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.
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?
 

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Are you suggesting there are folks on this forum who would say they are not Sonny Rollins fans? This notion shocks me for some reason...
Well I must admit to not being a great fan of anything Sonny has done in this century but the work he did in the 1950s is some of the greatest playing ever.
Maybe somebody can dig up some Lew Tabackin ? Lew was a rare saxophone player of his generation, who never tried to sound like Coltrane But he was very influenced by Sonny Rollins . …a very rhythmical honkin…player like what Sonny does.
 

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I just recently went back and listened to Chris Potter's 2002 album "Traveling Mercies". Check it out. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there wasn't a single "run" (defined as a set of more than 8 rapid equal-length notes, such as 8ths, 16ths, triplets, etc.) on the entire album!
I love anything Potter does, thanks for mentioning this album, haven't heard this yet!
 

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I don't hear too many tenorists emulating Sonny either rhythmically or tonally. If I'm wrong I'm glad to hear it. I dig Melissa Aldana but she sounds kind of "clean" to me compared to Rollins. The last tenorist I'm aware of who really based his concept on Rollins would be Steve Grossman, later in his career.
Sonny is my very favourite tenor player, saxophonist, improviser. I saw him in concert in London about ten times in the 80s and 90s and also being interviewed at the London premiere of the film "Saxophone Colossus."

Up to now I haven't heard a lot of Steve Grossman but enjoyed this recording and transcription that I found on YouTube:


Rhys
 

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At the risk of being facetious, are there any players from any period in jazz who really play with Sonny's rhythmic style?
Joe Henderson

The only one I can think of that is Sonny's match in this area is Zoot Sims. He might be the swingingest tenorman who ever lived.
Not even close.
I like Zoot but he's on a much lower tier than Sonny Rollins or Joe Henderson.

Some mo' Joe
 

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Joe Henderson

Not even close.
I like Zoot but he's on a much lower tier than Sonny Rollins or Joe Henderson.

Some mo' Joe
Yeah, Joe and Sonny certainly have a lot in common to my ears, and no little swagger too! But to me Joe has his own rhythmic thing going on, I've always found him much harder to transcribe as such.
 

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I think if you're talking rhythm, Zoot is on par with or even better than Sonny and Joe. Probably not in terms of his ideas and lines, but definitely in his sense of time, which was non pareil.

I saw Sonny live, but not Joe. But if I had a chance to go back in time to see anyone I missed (at least on tenor), it would probably be Zoot.
 
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