Sonny Rollins, the "Saxophone Colossus," will perform a free concert on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville on Saturday. Also on the bill is jazz-fusion guitarist John Scofield. Each will be backed by his own five-piece group.
Rollins, 67, has been a major force in jazz since the mid-1950s. His dense, metallic tone has been heard on recordings with Max Roach, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk.
A little late for the bebop era and not able to commit himself to the atonal squealing and honking of the avant-garde, Rollins found himself between idioms in the late 1950s and early '60s. Over-recorded, because he needed the money, and over-scrutinized by the critics because he was seen as John Coltrane's only serious challenger, he did what he has done a couple of times in his career: He quit.
During this first sabbatical, he worked blue-collar jobs and concentrated on finding his own voice on the tenor saxophone. Unable to practice in his New York City apartment because the neighbors complained about "the noise," Rollins could be found late at night blowing his sax on the catwalk of the Williamsburg Bridge.
His first album upon his return to public performance, The Bridge, disappointed many critics and fans. They had expected something further out than the subdued, mainstream collaboration with guitarist Jim Hall. But Rollins felt that he had accomplished what he set out to do. He had made subtle refinements in his style and begun to create an unmistakably personal sound on the tenor.
Scofield, 45, is a veteran of the Miles Davis comeback bands of the early '80s. His sinewy melodic lines imitate a horn player's approach to improvisation. Before joining Miles, he worked with Billy Cobham, George Duke, Gary Burton and Charles Mingus. In the last few years, he has led his own groups and toured internationally.
Saturday's concert begins at 6 p.m. at the University of Florida band shell off Museum Road. Parking is free. For more information call Student Government Productions at (352) 392-1665.