cover image Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove

Barry Wittenstein, illus. by Keith Mallett. Charlesbridge, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-58089-881-2

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. [em](May) [/em]