Kids for Coltrane

An Extraordinary Experience… Hearing Sonny Rollins in Concert

Posted on: December 7, 2009

Photo by Christine Passarella

What a special privilege it was to experience the music of the supernatural talent of  jazz saxophonist Mr. Sonny Rollins. On December 6, 2009  Sonny shared his amazing gift to support Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Project.  He is an outstanding talent…and spiritual human being. I will never forget this  afternoon in Tarrytown,  New York.  Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane were close friends.  John wrote a song for him entitled Like Sonny. The two men spoke of each others talent with reverence.  Sonny reminded the audience on this occasion  that taking care of the environment is the responsibility of each individual.  Mr. Rollins is one of the greatest musicians of our time…and I had the extreme pleasure of hearing his brilliance live….Smiles, Christine


Sonny Rollins in Tarrytown, December 6, 2009

By Janis Seminara

Yesterday, the sleepy-hollow town of Tarrytown came alive with the blissful, most magical sounds of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The beautiful Tarrytown Music Hall with its historic charm swayed homage as ambiance to this Jazz legend whose presence enchanted all on a late, wintry afternoon. This was a benefit concert for Clearwater, an environmental organization founded by folk singer Pete Seeger.  According to the, this benefit was apparently, “the first benefit Sonny Rollins has ever played and to the smallest venue he has ever played in over a decade.” The concert was hosted by actors, Deborah Winger and Arliss Howard who are both great fans of Sonny Rollins and couldn’t wait to finish their introductions so that they could enjoy (paraphrasing Debra Winger), “a few extra minutes of Sonny’s performance.”

Christine Passarella, founder of  The Kids for Coltrane project ( asked me to accompany her on this spur of the moment trek to Tarrytown because she had just discovered that Sonny was playing. She filled me in on the history between Sonny and John Coltrane, and that John Coltrane even wrote a song called, “Like Sonny” to pay homage to Sonny Rollins. I believe this piece captures the spirit of this prominent and important performer.

Christine had also sent me plenty of links to listen to so that I could prepare myself for the concert. After an hour or so of preparation, I couldn’t wait to see, hear and experience the magnanimous, soulful and celebratory energy of this generous human being. I was to be gifted beyond my expectations.

Sonny Rollins emerged in a red shirt, briefly addressing the Clearwater initiative and applauding their mission. He quickly delved into his music, moving with his saxophone across the stage, and parlaying with each of the other musicians. This is an aspect of Jazz that I particularly love, watching the band compliment each other with their own play on each song, their own style and voice. The entire concert was a complete joy, and while I won’t pretend that I knew each song by heart or title, I did recognize “Global Warming” and the Duke Ellington pieces. Sonny’s energy transcended age, and illustrates for all that when you live your bliss, age is just a recording of digits floating somewhere in time, and time transcended any modicum of measure for the entire performance until Sonny finally left the stage with yet another standing ovation.

As I write this article, I can still hear Sonny Rollin’s saxophone amidst flashes of red and gold on the Tarrytown Music Hall stage. This recollection will forever change my own vision of ‘holiday spirit’. For me, a quintessential and contemporary gift would be a miniature gold saxophone, embellished with a red satin bow and it would play “Global Warming” at the clap of one’s hands. It would memorialize Sonny Rollins’ spirit of generosity, this unforgettable concert and the purpose of Clearwater’s project, which should be on everyone’s holiday ‘wish list’.

There are many Sonny Rollins recordings to be enjoyed on You Tube, including “Global Warming” and interviews with Sonny. I particularly enjoyed the Freedom-Suite interview, which will give you a bit of history regarding this incredible man.

I also found a New York Times article online about this benefit concert which speaks about Sonny Rollin’s concern regarding environmental issues.

Thank You and God Bless you Sonny Rollins, and keep on playing!

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