Rollins is one of the most prolific sax players in the history of jazz, but, in 1959, at the height of his career, he vanished from the jazz scene. His return to music was an interesting journey--with a long detour on the Williamsburg Bridge. Too loud to practice in his apartment, Rollins played on the New York City landmark for two years among the cacophony of traffic and the stares of bystanders, leading to the release of his album, The Bridge. Written in rhythmic prose with a bebop edge, this picture-book biography of Sonny Rollins's journey to get his groove back will delight young and old fans alike.
"Walter Theodore Sonny Rollins was born during the Jazz Age in the cradle of the Harlem Renaissance. After WWII, jazz slowly morphed into bebop, and Sonny was in the middle of it. Overwhelmed by early fame, the young saxophonist decided to take a break from the limelight until the siren song called again, and he began practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge, away from complaining neighbors. The text is divided into sets, framing the narrative within larger historical moments, and Wittenstein presents the story in jaunty, lyrical phrasings. He also works in the titles of famous standards like Stompin' at the Savoy and Take the A' Train. Mallett's palette alternates between royal purples and sandy browns, with the digital art seeming to glow during Sonny's highs and dim during his lows. The back matter details some of his heavier moments, including issues with substance abuse, and it mentions a current-day project to rename the Williamsburg Bridge after Rollins. A good choice for collections in need of biographies focused on music or lesser-known African American musicians.--Shelley M. Diaz Copyright 2019 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"This insightful biography of Sonny Rollins opens with two New Yorkers hearing the sound of saxophone: "What the heck is Sonny Rollins doing on the Williamsburg Bridge?" Wittenstein turns back the clock as Mallett depicts formative moments from Rollins's life alongside concurrent historical events: Rollins is born at the time of the Harlem Renaissance, and discovers a love for saxophone as WWII soldiers march and eventually give way to civil rights demonstrators. After Rollins's music career launches and he "rockets to the top of the jazz universe," the book fast forwards to Rollins's mid-career moment of crisis: "Looks in the mirror,/ doesn't like what he sees./ Name bigger than talent." Seeking a private place to play (Rollins leans dejectedly on his fire escape, his saxophone resting against the railing, the sun setting over the Manhattan skyline), he finds solace in practicing on the bridge, which connects "the old to the new," and leads to a new recording. Wittenstein fluidly provides historical context while exploring the ebbs and flows of the artistic process. Back matter discusses Rollins's The Bridge album. Ages 6-9. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved