Sonny Rollins in Commercial for Pioneer Electronics

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This 1977 Pioneer Electronics commercial featuring Sonny Rollins is one of the few advertisements that uses the musician on screen. Pioneer correlates its product quality and work ethic to Sonny Rollins by identifying with his stint practicing on the Williamsburg bridge. Rollins stopped performing in public and instead practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge from the summer of 1959 through the fall of 1961 in order to work on his art. When Sonny broke this musical sabatical he return with new gusto and style. His first album following the stint on the bridge was also title The Bridge.

In interview for the magazine The Vibe Ishmael Reed asked Sonny about players lowering their standards in order to make money. In his response Sonny brought up the making of this commercial. An excerpt from the 1996 interview is below:

Q: People are so happy to play that they lower the standards.

A: It's not just In the past, either; I'm going through this shit all the time. They just called me to do a commercial for this car, infiniti. They wanted us to go to Czechoslovakia to shoot it. There's no speaking; it would be this actor and myself sitting down in a jazz club at a table, and there'll be some Czech jazz musicians up there playing and then a with a vice-over about Infiniti — something like that. So naturally I didn't do it. I mean, for me to just be validating white jazz music. I'm not going to put myself in that position. I'm glad they still l think I'm viable to do it, but I'm not gonna do that shit, man. 

I did one commercial, some time ago, where I was playing on the bridge for Pioneer. They said, "Sonny Rollins really went to practice on the bridge and became excellent, like our product" —something like that is cool, where I'm identified and the people know it's me playing. But to sit down and validate somebody else's shit, it's just not right. It would get me a lot of exposure, it would be cash, of course, but I reached the conclusion a long time ago that I'm not rich, I'm not going to get rich, I just want to make enough to make it. Fuck trying to get into that race. I don't want it; I don't even want to speak to those people about it 'cause I don' t like them.

Click here to read intview on Google Books. This excerpt above can be found on pages 137 and 138.

Another saxophone player, Wayne Escoffery, appeared on screen for a commerical for Grey Goose (click here to watch).

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