Spiritual Jazz Survivor: Sonny Greenwich

Mystical is often used to describe many Jazz musicians but only a few have ever reached a genuine level of otherworldly playing like tenor saxophonists John Coltrane or Albert Ayler. One is guitarist Sonny Greenwich. But because of his age and nationality, Greenwich, now 84, and long based in Montreal, never received the international recognition he deserved. In these excerpts from Of Stars and Strings: A Biography of Sonny Greenwich, published in Point of Departure, Canadian author Mark Miller tries to explain why. Despite brief sojourns in the United States and with praise for his work with the likes of saxophonists John Handy and Hank Mobley, Greenwich was not able to establish a professional foothold there. In Montreal, while he was involved as a frequent player at the Jazz Workshop, which brought avant-garde players such as pianist Paul Bley and alto saxophonist Marion Brown to the city, the more conservative climate limited his local opportunities to work elsewhere.  Besides testimonies to Greenwich’s unique talent by such long-time associates like pianist/bassist Don Thompson, the piece also offers a brief history of how so-called psychedelic Jazz fared – or didn’t – during its heyday in late 1960s Montreal.