In an interview a few days before the Newport performance, Rollins told Rick Massimo of the Providence Journal why he has kept bassist Bob Cranshaw in his band for more than four decades…
…because he maintained the fixed portion of it, and that would allow me to extemporize freely and the song would still be maintained. It was a contrast; if he had the fixed part, then I could go into all of my wild dreams.
…and why he rarely works with pianists.
At the risk of alienating my piano-playing friends — and I’ve played with some great piano
players — the piano is a very dominating instrument. I guess this goes back to when I was 7 years old and I was able to play and get into myself without any other instrument. The jazz bands in New Orleans — you see these guys marching down the street, there’s no piano…
The kind of music without a piano is more gritty, more real, hard jazz. It allows me to feel more free in my improvisations. The piano is very leading. You can lead a band here, you can lead to this chord, this mood. Everything is fed by a piano. I find that very restricting.
For more of the Massimo interview, go here.