Based on more than 200 interviews with Sonny Rollins himself, family members, friends, and collaborators, as well as Rollins' extensive personal archive, Saxophone Colossus is the comprehensive portrait of this legendary saxophonist and composer, civil rights activist and environmentalist.
Gripping drama ... Mr. Levy, who previously wrote a biography of Lou Reed, distills essential truths ... Mr. Levy also ties strands of Mr. Rollins’s history together in poignant ways ... Mr. Levy cites some of the criticisms directed at Mr. Rollins, but mostly steers clear of his own assessments ... [Levy] focuses less on musicology and more on the man who grew up as bebop took hold ... Mr. Levy enlightens us most of all about the resilience behind that power, the well-honed technique and wild imagination with which it was employed, and the humility, perhaps more apparent now, at its core.
A whopper, nearly 800 pages of deep-dive research ... A vivid picture of this milieu, its buzzing nightlife and its varieties of temptation waiting behind what seems every door. Throughout Saxophone Colossus, [Levy] weds his extensive research to a feel for detail and narrative; the book is certainly long, but it has too much great reporting to be dry ... Levy is excellent on the history of calypso and the late-1950s American craze for the genre.
Levy has scoured personal archives and the public record for any narrative details relating to Rollins, which are nearly countless ... Beyond that, Levy, the author of a biography of Lou Reed, seems to have found every published interview Rollins has ever given ... The 'Bridge' chapter also represents a bridge between the book’s two long sections, and a kind of apex from which the book’s tension begins to slacken. This slackening is not particularly a fault of Levy, a sympathetic and conscientious biographer who keeps his own style dialed way down ... A brimming and organized compendium, something to keep returning to like Rollins’s records.