May 9, 2014

"ANY SONG WAS POSSIBLE":

Transformed, 'Body and Soul' : Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, 83, is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His latest album is "Road Shows Vol. 3" (Doxy/OKeh). He spoke to reporter Marc Myers (5/09/14, WSJ)

It's hard today to fully appreciate how different Coleman Hawkins's "Body and Soul" sounded when it hit Harlem jukeboxes in late 1939. On that three-minute record, Coleman took a popular torch song and, with his tenor saxophone, turned it into a personal statement without ever losing track of the original melody. Wow, that was completely new, and it really changed me.

I first heard "Body and Soul" when I was 10 years old. I was standing outside the Big Apple Bar on the corner of 135th Street and Seventh Avenue, across from Small's Paradise, and heard it on the jukebox through an open window.

Back then, I was playing alto saxophone and idolized [alto saxophonist] Louis Jordan --and still do. But when I heard Coleman's "Body and Soul," a light went off in my head. If he could personalize a popular song like that without lyrics, any song was possible if you had that intellectual capacity.



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Posted by at May 9, 2014 5:44 PM
  
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