Home / Books / Book Reviews / Book Review: Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins by Bob Blumenthal, Photography by John Abbott

Book Review: Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins by Bob Blumenthal, Photography by John Abbott

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“How could you be familiar with Lee Morgan, Horace Silver and Clifford Brown and not know of Sonny Rollins?” I asked my friend Bernie.  “The same way you can know Lee Ritenour and Les Paul but not know Zachary Breaux and David Benoit.” he replied. Bernie is in many ways like me.  We have a long time interest in jazz music but we’re not previously serious students of the genre.  Put everything we know about jazz together and we might add up to what some would call “one serious novice jazz aficionado.“

by John AbbottMy interest in photography preceded jazz, goes much deeper, and has persevered over the decades.  I started shooting professionally about five years ago and of course a book combining two of my favorite subjects got my attention quickly. 

Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins is a must-buy for anyone with interests in either jazz or photography and certainly if you are like me — interested in both.  Bob Blumenthal provides the text and, along with John Abbott’s remarkably captivating images, presents an entertaining, educational, and inspirational statement about one of our country’s living jazz legends.

by John Abbott

Photographers at all levels of skill will enjoy a close examination of Abbot’s work.  Not only is he a master of his equipment, he is also talented with the artistic aspects such as composition and lighting.  He has made great choices when selecting which images to show in color and which ones for black and white — with an appropriate balance to suit the stories he tells with his images.  It is the mark of a mature, sensitive professional that can get what Abbott gets from his subject and a credit to both him and Rollins for achieving such a strong connection for the length of time involved in these shoots.

Blumenthal draws upon a more than 35-year personal history with Rollins to bring us the straight story.  According to Blumenthal, when they first met, Rollins impressed him with “his high standards and refusal to accept success at face value.” Not the typical biography, this is a story of a man and his music with lessons applicable to all walks of life. Known for his brilliant and spontaneous improvisations, Rollins remained aware of current popular hits.  In addition to his covers, he also wrote jazz classics such as “Oleo,” “Airegin,” and “Doxy.”

Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins was released in early September and will teach the reader valuable lessons about life, jazz, and photography.  Be like Bernie and me, pick up a copy and get “jazzed up”!

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About FCEtier

  • In the generous gallery of album covers below your article, you somehow missed the most inspired one of all.

    You can view the image here.

    And for a little background, try here.

    It’s a shame that William Claxton has been mentioned only once on Blogcritics, eight years ago and obliquely at that. He deserves a standalone appreciation by a fellow pro photographer and jazz buff. Somebody like, say, FCEtier.

  • As long as I’m at it, ditto for Blue Note’s Francis Wolff, who likewise has been mentioned only once on Blogcritics, two years ago and equally obliquely.