Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

4

Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By Robert Mugge

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus
MVD Visual
2017

Sonny Rollins' life and career is the stuff of legend, not the least of which intervals include the period he 'retired' to perfect his craft with practice sessions on 'The Bridge' in New York or his numerous influential pieces of recording, including the album after which Robert Mugge named his documentary. And while there's certainly no questioning the logic of the title for that reason alone, the vaunted filmmaker imbues the 1986 film, now available in digital formats, with a clarity that reaffirms the truth of the phrase.

The man who made Cool Runnings and The Return of Ruben Blades, among other music-based cinematic projects, does so with an discerning focus here. In fact, Mugge's work exhibits an understated yet emphatic tone, set from the very beginning, with what amounts to a cold start via the first of a number of interview segments with the likable, forward-thinking musician and composer. Thus, with Rollins himself as his and the viewer's guide, the documentarian takes a very centered approach to his subject, homing in on the inner workings of the music itself, in two markedly different settings: the one with the iconic saxophonist and his quartet in a sylvan setting in upstate New York, the other in Tokyo with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, presenting "Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra," with Heikki Sarmanto conducting.

Through the stark contrast(s) of these two settings, Mugge is able to depict how the great musician can simultaneously integrates himself into his surroundings and transcend them. In this regard, the Japanese footage is most vivid as the filmmaker cuts away from the performance regularly-those shots uniformly stylized to the distinct movements of the larger piece-to offer glimpses of the culture. Mugge thereby suggests those elements inform Rollins' playing even as the musician injects his personality into the larger piece as well as in his self-professed role as ambassador to the Far East .

And while the the main body of video content doesn't capture the interval itself, the startling moments Rollins leapt from the alfresco stone stage of Saugerties' Opus 40, then kept playing after absorbing the pain of broken heel he suffered in doing so, is referenced and recounted in Robert Mugge's new commentary for Saxophone Colossus, "Leaps And Bounds;" one of three bonus features included as part of the 4K remastering (along with along with two audio-only tracks, "G-Man" and "Don't Stop The Carnival"), the overall technical upgrade Mugge supervised for this release on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats becomes a direct reflection of his lucid concept for the film and the execution thereof.

While the interview segments with Rollins himself (often in the company of his now deceased spouse Lucille) and the three esteemed jazz writers (Ira Gitler, Gary Giddins and Francis Davis) don't render superfluous Mugge's own commentary, the sum effect of those verbal interludes, interspersed with the diverse performance footage, only clarifies how much more expressive is the art of instrumental improvisation: it's an implicit yet profound statement of Robert Mugge's, the resounding likes of which rarely arises from otherwise more superficially expansive documentaries.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly DVD/Film Reviews
Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 3, 2018
Read Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut DVD/Film Reviews
Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge - 50 Years of Defining Culture DVD/Film Reviews
Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge - 50 Years of Defining...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2018
Read The US Festival 1982: The US Generation DVD/Film Reviews
The US Festival 1982: The US Generation
by Doug Collette
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait DVD/Film Reviews
Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 26, 2018
Read Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie DVD/Film Reviews
Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie
by John Kelman
Published: August 16, 2018
Read "Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience" DVD/Film Reviews Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience
by Doug Collette
Published: March 10, 2018
Read "The Doors: Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970" DVD/Film Reviews The Doors: Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read "Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly" DVD/Film Reviews Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 3, 2018
Read "Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie" DVD/Film Reviews Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie
by John Kelman
Published: August 16, 2018
Read "BANG! The Bert Berns Story" DVD/Film Reviews BANG! The Bert Berns Story
by Doug Collette
Published: July 14, 2018