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Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus DVD

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Garrell Hughes
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« on: February 23, 2009, 11:05:25 am »

Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus DVD -- 25th Anniversary Documentary Released on 1/27 2009
Directed by Robert Mugge

BuzzFlash.com's Review (excerpt)
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Sonny Rollins has been called the greatest improviser in jazz. Celebrated filmmaker Robert Mugge (New Orleans Music in Exile, Gospel According to Al Green) captures the artist in performance and in repose, speaking candidly about his life, creative process, spirituality, and music. Filmed in New York City, Tokyo, and near his home in upstate New York, this acclaimed documentary features scenes from the Opus 40 Festival ("G-Man," "Don't Stop the Carnival") and the world premiere of Rollins's "Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra" with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. "A fascinating musician at his best. Superb" --St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE reflections by director Robert Mugge and Rollins discography.

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From an online reviewer:

"Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus," by the esteemed filmmaker Robert Mugge, has just been rereleased in a 25th Anniversary edition. The film gives us background on Rollins, live performance footage, a profile of the 20th century American jazz great, and interviews with his wife Lucille and several prominent jazz critics: Ira Gittlin, Gary Giddins, and Francis Davis. The film initially aired on Britain's BBC4, which commissioned it; and on the PBS, Bravo, and BET networks in this country.

Rollins speaks candidly about his life, creative process, spirituality and music in this film, named after one of his most acclaimed albums, Saxophone Colossus. The tenor saxophone master has won two Grammys, and a Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as being a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the country's highest jazz honor. He's still going strong: he opened the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival before a crowd of 13,000, and earned critical raves. The documentarian Mugge filmed in downtown New York City; and a rock quarry turned bar in Saugerties, upstate New York, where we see him doing a fifteen minute "G-Man," and "Don't Stop the Carnival," among other compositions. We also see an old black/white clip of his playing an early big hit, "The Bridge," ground-breaking jazz in its time. Finally, we get some very interesting footage of Japan, as Rollins' lovely "Concerto for Tenor and Orchestra" receives its World Premier; Rollins explains onscreen that he and the Japanese are mutually fond of each other; that this, in 1984, is his twelfth tour there.

I've been lucky enough to see Rollins in person once, outdoors on a balmy spring evening, at New York's South Street Seaport. His beautiful, spiritual sound, as he was silhouetted against the sky, certainly made a memory for me.

Rollins mentions that he is of West Indian parentage, and one of the critics, Ira Gittlin, comments upon the fact, and how clear the Caribbean influences can be in the saxophonist's music. And my oh my, we certainly hear it ourselves, in the jump-up "Carnival" performed at Saugerties.

The "Jazz Times" has called Robert Mugge "the foremost chronicler of American music." The award-winning documentarian has made nearly 30 films about music, including Gospel According to Al Green, and New Orleans Music in Exile. This film should be very welcome to jazz lovers.

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