52nd Street Theme

Sonny Rollins & Don Cherry

After “The Bridge” – 1963

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In 1959, Rollins took an extended break from recording. I’d heard that one of the things that contributed to it was being exposed to the music of Ornette Coleman which caused a lot of accomplished musicians, John Coltrane include, to take a fresh look at their art.

Here he is after than period with three Coleman sidemen.

About that time on the bridge, Sonny Rollins had this to say:

“In the 50s and 60s, Lucille and I had a small apartment on Grand Street on the Lower East Side of New York. It was a nice time. I had a lot of friends there and I was welcomed by the neighborhood people. Like most of New York, the Lower East Side has undergone gentrification but back then, it was a much more ethnic place.

I started practicing in the house because I had to practice, but I felt guilty because I’m a sensitive person and I know that people need quiet in their apartments.

I was walking on Delancey Street one day, not far from where I lived on Grand Street and I just happened to look up and see these steps that I decided to check out. And there, of course, was the bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge. It was this nice big expanse going over the East River. There was nobody up there. So I started walking acoss the bridge and said, “Wow. This is what I have been looking for. This is a private place. I can blow my horn as loud as I want.” Because the boats are coming under, and the subway is coming across, and cars, and I knew it was perfect, just serendipity. Then, I began getting my horn and going up there regularly. I would be up there 15 or 16 hours at a time spring, summer, fall and winter.”

Sonny Rollins appears on Italian television in 1963


Sonny Rollins, tenor sax
Don Cherry, trumpet
Henry Grimes, bass
Billy Higgins, drums


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