Sonny Rollins
American saxophonist
Sonny Rollins
Theodore Walter "Sonny" Rollins is an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Rollins is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians. A number of his compositions, including "St. Thomas", "Oleo", "Doxy", and "Airegin", have become jazz standards.
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Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Revisits Past Performances With 'Holding The Stage'
NPR - 10 months
The 85-year-old saxophonist's new album features live recordings made between 1979 and 2012. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead calls Holding The Stage a "mixed bag" with a few "real gems."
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NPR article
The House Sinatra Lived In
Huffington Post - about 1 year
As concerts and other celebrations mark the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth on December 12, I have two potent memories: one personal, the other from a time at the end of World War II when he embraced the all-American principles of equality and tolerance -- religious and racial -- even in the face of bigotry and bullying. I wrote for Sinatra once. Although as I've become fond of saying, you didn't so much write for Sinatra as at him. It was 30 years ago in the fall of 1985. I was working on the script for what would turn out to be music legend Benny Goodman's last television special, a two-hour performance and tribute for PBS. We were in touch with Benny on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis as he put together who he wanted to participate. One day, as I sat in the office of the executive producer, Jack Sameth, Benny called and asked him, "Would you like Frank Sinatra to be on the show?" As I nodded vigorously, Jack said, of course. Sinatra was appearing at Carnegie Hall ...
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Michael Blake's World Time Zone Premiers <i>Contrasts in Individualism</i> at The Kitano
Huffington Post - about 3 years
On a Thursday night at the elegant Kitano Jazz club in Manhattan the saxophonist Michael Blake premiered his latest work Contrasts in Individualism, a series of compositions inspired by two of the twentieth century's most influential pre-bop tenor men, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Mr. Blake, a Canadian born in Montreal and raised in Vancouver, Canada, has made New York his home since 1986. The mild- mannered musician has been playing with some of the most progressive musicians on the scene as a member of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards, Ben Allison's Medicine Wheel, The Herbie Nichols Project, Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, and the progressive instrumental group Slow Poke with Dave Tronzo, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, along with several self-led groups. In a world littered with saxophonists who prefer to play a fusillade of notes to express their ideas, Michael Blake has refreshingly chosen to follow a more measured approach. As a student of the pre-bop m ...
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Huffington Post article
Dog Ears Music: Born in January
Huffington Post - about 3 years
Lead BellyHuddie William Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, "the King of the Twelve-String," was born an only child in 1889 on a Louisiana plantation. His love affair with music began at an early age, and he quickly picked up guitar, mandolin, accordion, and piano. Nearing the age of 14, he quit school and started performing in juke joints, where he became a popular attraction. His hard life, working the rails and picking cotton, heavily influenced his music--he landed in jail, escaped, lived under an alias for two years, then returned to prison in 1918, convicted of murder (he earned a pardon in 1925 by writing a song for the governor). In 1930, he was arrested again and sentenced to hard time in Louisiana's infamous Angola Farm prison. During the Depression, father-and-son music historians John and Alan Lomax, who were curating a collection of prison songs for the Library of Congress, discovered the bluesman and immortalized him on wax. These recordings gave him the opportunit ...
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Down the Drain?
The Portland Mercury - about 3 years
Why did the city spend sewer money on a jazz concert? Efficiency! by Dirk VanderHart AS JAZZ HITS go, Dexter Gordon's "Second Balcony Jump" is at the joyful, swinging end of the spectrum—all brash saxophone and tinkling piano, with bass and drums playing a dutiful backdrop. It's a tune that evokes visions of a swank '60s cocktail party. But on February 3, 2010, the strains of "Second Balcony Jump" bled out into the staid second-floor halls of the Portland Building—courtesy of your sewer bill. The Bureau of Environmental Services (BES)—the city's sewer, stormwater, and environmental stewardship agency—paid $1,000 to local jazz musician Darrell Grant and some fellow musicians to treat staffers to a lunchtime concert in honor of Black History Month. It's a paltry sum in the context of the bureau's $933 million budget. And officials defend the contract, signed under the stewardship of Commissioner Dan Saltzman, as part of a citywi ...
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The Portland Mercury article
An Interview with Freddy Cole
Huffington Post - over 3 years
The singer/pianist Freddy Cole is a national treasure and at 81 years young he is still a masterful entertainer. He will be playing in a duet series with the singer Hilary Kole titled "Perfect Pairs" at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT on November 13, 2013. I was fortunate enough to do an interview with Mr. Cole in preparation for the performance. Here is a transcript of that phone interview, which was taken on November 7, 2013 : NOJ: When did you first realize you wanted to make a career in music? FC: You know, I never really thought about it. I never really distinguished between doing it or not because I have played the piano since I was five years old. So, I have always been involved with music. I was just fortunate enough for it to happen to me. NOJ: You were in a musical family and were exposed to some of the most iconic figures in jazz history at an early age. FC: That's true. Yeah that's true. NOJ: Who left the greatest impression on you and what instance can you recall ...
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Classical Goes Pops
The Portland Mercury - over 3 years
Oregon Symphony's season opens with fake ABBA. by Ned Lannamann THIS SHOULD either delight or terrify you: The Oregon Symphony's upcoming season opener is a performance with an ABBA cover band. Due to the city's budget shortfalls and funding cuts from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the annual Waterfront Concert—typically scheduled for the end of August or beginning of September to kick off the Oregon Symphony's season—did not happen this year. Instead, the Oregon Symphony's season begins with a concert performed in collaboration with Waterloo, an ABBA tribute band. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against ABBA, really. "Knowing Me, Knowing You" is the jam. But "ABBA—The Concert" seems a flagrantly moneymaking way to kick off a symphony program heavily stacked with "pops" concerts to get over financial bumps. The cancellation of the Waterfront Concert isn't the only difficulty the Oregon Symphony has run into in the past ...
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The Portland Mercury article
Ralph A. Miriello: Notes on Jazz's Annual 4th of July Living Legends of Jazz Celebration
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Jimmy Cobb photo by Lena Ashasheva ©2013 Another year has passed since Notes on Jazz published its annual Living Legend of Jazz feature. This is the fourth such compilation, a yearly reminder and a joyful celebration of the artistry and longevity of jazz artists that have been living in our midst. With each year we marvel at some familiar new members who have entered into the ranks of the Living Legends. The criteria are uncomplicated, simply induct any musician, working or retired who has reached their seventieth birthday and has contributed to the canon of the music, keeping the spirit and tradition of the music alive. They could be relatively obscure or internationally recognized, but in their own way they made a difference. Many of us grew up with these artists and have followed their careers through the years. As this is an organic list, ever-changing, like the music, its ranks are added to and depleted each year. Sadly, since last July 4th, ,we have continued to lo ...
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Ralph A. Miriello: An Intimate Duet: Joe Lovano and Kenny Werner at the Carnegie Room, Nyack Library, Nyack, NY
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
The recently re-named Carnegie-Farian Room of the Nyack Library is a jewel of a performance space, with its aged wood and stone turn of the century interior finishes. The space becomes as much a part of the performance as do the players who grace its stage, burnishing the tones of the music played there. The Rockland Jazz and Blues Society and its President Richard Sussman, in conjunction with the Library's Musical director Yashar Yaslowitz, have been putting on spectacular shows in this one hundred seat venue for several years. Friday night's intimate duet, featuring the saxophone colossal Joe Lovano and the splendid piano virtuoso Kenny Werner, set a new high water mark for the series. The sold out crowd was peppered with musicians and cognoscenti. They all came to hear these two masters play in the living room setting that makes the Carnegie Room so special and intimate. Joe Lovano at Nyack Library /photo by Ralph A. Miriello c 2013 Mr. Lovano is a big, burly ...
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Randall Kline beats drum for SFJazz Center
San Francisco Chronicle - about 4 years
Randall Kline beats drum for SFJazz Center Tech guys in orange and green safety vests worked around the stage as music filled the refined minimalist space at the core of the new cultural center at Franklin and Fell streets. A smile played on the face of the tenacious impresario, whose decades-old dream of building a permanent home in San Francisco for improvised music has finally come to fruition in the $64 million SFJazz Center, opening Monday. Kline spent years working with San Francisco architect Mark Cavagnero to create a performance space that could somehow combine the intimacy and energy of a jazz club with the acoustics of a great concert hall. The building, a mostly transparent structure that connects the center to the street and the popping Hayes Valley neighborhood, was seeded with a $20 million gift from an anonymous Bay Area donor whose family has a 20-year friendship with Kline and SFJazz. A former bass player who dropped out of San Francisco Stat ...
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San Francisco Chronicle article
Tony Woodcock: Why Music Is Important: Pushing Boundaries
Huffington Post - over 4 years
"As far as boundaries are concerned, we are always looking for new ones."--Hankus Netsky Recently, I attended a class by Hankus Netsky, who heads up the Contemporary Improvisation Department (CI) at New England Conservatory. This is the department Gunther Schuller created in 1972 as Third Stream with the amazing pianist Ran Blake as its first chair. I'm proud to say it is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and the program has become one of NEC's most distinguished and distinctive. I had attended quite a few performances by CI musicians and been swept up in the energy and creativity of students and faculty alike. But I had never had the opportunity to experience the actual teaching of improvisation. The group of students numbered about 10 and it was very apparent that they all felt great respect and affection for each other. Hankus Netsky Photo: Andrew Hurlbut Hankus, who was bustling with energy as he always is, played a recording and then got the ...
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Michael Bolton Books A Small Screen Gig
Huffington Post - over 4 years
It looks like Michael Bolton's trading tunes for TV. According to THR, the singer is set to star in the ABC comedy pilot "Michael Bolton's Daughter Is Ruining My Life," based on "Go On" actress Allison Miller's experience with celebrities when she first moved to L.A. Bolton will play a fictional version of himself. The Grammy winner also appeared on CBS' "Two And A Half Men" earlier this season and made a notable appearance on "Saturday Night Live" as a Jack Sparrow superfan. In other casting news... Sonny Rollins is swinging by "The Simpsons." Rollins will voice himself in the animated Fox comedy in an episode titled "Whiskey Business." [TVLine] "Sirens" has added two new cast members. "Scrubs" alum Michael Mosley and "Modern Family's" Kevin Daniels are joining the USA comedy. Mosley will play a Chicago EMT named Johnny with Daniels playing his best friend. [TVLine] Callum Blue and Derek Smith will recur on "The Secret Lives Of Wives." Blue will portray Je ...
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Mike Ragogna: Jazzin' Around: Conversations With David Sanborn, Lee Ritenour and Kurt Elling
Huffington Post - over 4 years
A Conversation with David Sanborn Mike Ragogna: David, let's get into Then Again: The David Sanborn Anthology, your new doubledisc anthology. You participated in the track selection? David Sanborn: Yeah, I actually selected all of the tracks that are on this particular collection. So what I did was I went over all of the CDs that I made at Warner Brothers or Elektra, which is all part of the Warner group over the last twenty years, from '75 until sometime in the mid-nineties. What I tried to do was make this a little bit different from some of the other collections that had been put out because I didn't really have much of a hand in putting together those collections. What I wanted to do on this particular one, when they came to me and asked if I would be interested in doing it, was to try to represent not only the chronology of the records and the music and the evolution from '75 on, but also to kind of give the listener a sense of what I consider to be representative ...
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Lots of jazz headed to Northern California in next several weeks
The Sacramento Bee - over 4 years
The fall jazz schedule has a strong bottom as three big-time bassists lead bands into Northern California. Christian McBride, Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke are as formidable and recognizable as any three bassists in jazz. Folsom's Three Stages program adds to the overall quality, with two premium artists playing the big hall there. Meanwhile, JB's Lounge under Vivian Lee's solid guidance continues presenting strong local bands, and Ross Hammond's Nebraska Mondays series at Luna's celebrates a birthday. The great Sonny Rollins plays Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco next Sunday. Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom will accompany dancer Andrea Weber in a performance based on cartoons and short films, Oct. 7 at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. Brazilian pianist and vocalist, Eliane Elias comes to Folsom Lake College's Three Stages on Oct. 18. Bassist Ron Carter leaves New York only occasionally. Fortunately for jazz lovers, he'll be at Yoshi's Oakland fo ...
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The Sacramento Bee article
Mike Ragogna: Namaste & Conversation: Interviews With Kenny G and David Benoit, Plus Downtown Struts and Sara Jackson-Holman Exclusives
Huffington Post - over 4 years
A Conversation With Kenny G Mike Ragogna: Kenny, how did your recording an album with Rahul Sharma come about? Kenny G: Well, I was down in India doing a show at a hotel, which is always a fun thing to do on the road because you can just go from your hotel room to the venue downstairs. (laughs) After I finished the gig, I was back in my room and the phone rang. It was actually a guy that had just attended the gig. I'm still not sure how he got my room number, but I wasn't upset about it or anything. He wanted me to come and meet him because he's a Santoor player and wanted to play some things with me. I had never been in India before, so I thought I would go ahead and take the chance. I went down and met him and played with him a bit. After that, I told him he should just email me some of his music, and we'd see what happened. So he did, and I found his music very interesting so I started adding my sax. One thing led to another, and all of a sudden we had a CD. MR: ...
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Huffington Post article
Bill Bush: Only in America: This Artweek.LA (July 2, 2012)
Huffington Post - over 4 years
This 4th of July week we are highlighting several exhibitions whose works impart the manifestations of America's cultural landscape and the contradictions among our ideals. Jazz, Baseball, Corporate Identities and the Bomb are all as American as the proverbial apple pie. Letters from America | Corey Helford Gallery mounts a U.K. invasion with an all-American Independence Day celebration on Wednesday, July 4 at Black Rat Gallery. The exhibition transforms the London tunnel into a bunker of America's most wanted artists, showcasing new works from RISK, Ron English, SABER, and TrustoCorp. SABER's famous flag series serves as a commentary about the National Healthcare System and his personal challenges with it. For the show, SABER will unveil first Union Flag piece, titled "The Flag Of The National Healthcare System." "Quite literally, I paint for my life," he says. "Every painting I touch, I try to envision my pieces on a travel into the future as a record of the great ...
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Huffington Post article
Ralph A. Miriello: Notes on Jazz Third Annual 4th of July Living Legends of Jazz Celebration
Huffington Post - over 4 years
Roy Haynes photo by Fran Kaufman © 2012 Notes on Jazz Third Annual Living Legends of Jazz 2012 Once again it is time for my annual Notes on Jazz listing of the Living Legend of Jazz .This is the third annual compilation, and with each year we gain some new members and sadly lose some old friends. The list is a celebration of those who have, for so long, graced us with their talents, their creativity and their love of the music. Last year, we saw the passing of some truly venerable legends. Musicians, performers, innovators, teachers and mentors who made an indelible mark on society at large and on the music in particular. Some were famous, some infamous and all will be missed. This fraternity of Jazz Legends lost two drummers. A onetime member of both the Ellington and Basie band's drummer Butch Ballard passed at the age of 92. The eclectic rhythm machine, Paul Motian, who together with bassist Scott LaFaro and pianist Bill Evans formed what was perhaps the mo ...
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Music Review: Sonny Rollins - The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins
Seattle Pi - over 4 years
Music Review: Sonny Rollins - The Very Best Of Sonny Rollins Seattle Post-Intelligencer Copyright 2012 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 11:33 p.m., Saturday, June 30, 2012 Sonny Rollins is one of the last men standing from jazz music's classic period. During his career he played with dozens of legendary artists including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker. Culled from his time with the Riverside, Prestige, and Contemporary labels, they represent the brilliance of his early period in which he established his reputation and began to build a catalogue of music that would influence future generations of jazz artists. Backed by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach, the nearly seven minute song was the perfect vehicle for his tenor saxophone to explore his West Indian heritage within a ...
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Seattle Pi article
Sonny Rollins is triple winner at annual Jazz Awards
Denver Post - over 4 years
NEW YORK  — Tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins was a triple winner at the annual Jazz Awards, garnering musician of the year honors for the second straight year.
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Denver Post article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Sonny Rollins
  • 2015
    Age 84
    This became one of Rollins's best-selling records; in 2015 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
    More Details Hide Details Rollins's contract with RCA lasted through 1964 and saw him remain one of the most adventurous musicians around. Each album he recorded differed radically from the previous one. The 1962 disc What's New? explored Latin rhythms. On the album Our Man in Jazz, recorded live at The Village Gate, he explored avant-garde playing with a quartet that featured Cranshaw on bass, Billy Higgins on drums and Don Cherry on cornet. He also played with a tenor saxophone hero, Coleman Hawkins, on Sonny Meets Hawk!, and he re-examined jazz standards and Great American Songbook melodies on Now's the Time and The Standard Sonny Rollins (which featured pianist Herbie Hancock).
  • 2014
    Age 83
    In 2014 he was the subject of a Dutch television documentary entitled Sonny Rollins-Morgen Speel ik Beter and in October 2015, he received the Jazz Foundation of America's lifetime achievement award.
    More Details Hide Details Rollins has not performed in public since 2012. As a saxophonist he had initially been attracted to the jump and R&B sounds of performers like Louis Jordan, but soon became drawn into the mainstream tenor saxophone tradition. The German critic Joachim Berendt described this tradition as sitting between the two poles of the strong sonority of Coleman Hawkins and the light flexible phrasing of Lester Young, which did so much to inspire the fleet improvisation of bebop in the 1950s. Other tenor saxophone influences include Ben Webster and Don Byas. By his mid-teens, Rollins became heavily influenced by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. During his high school years, he was mentored by the pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, often rehearsing at Monk's apartment. Rollins has played, at various times, a Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone and a Buescher Aristocrat. During the 1970s he recorded on soprano saxophone for the album Easy Living. His preferred mouthpieces are made by Otto Link and Berg Larsen. He uses Frederick Hemke medium reeds.
  • 2013
    Age 82
    In 2013, Rollins moved to Woodstock, New York.
    More Details Hide Details That spring, he made a guest television appearance on The Simpsons and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Juilliard School in New York City.
  • 2010
    Age 79
    In 2010 Rollins was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Edward MacDowell Medal.
    More Details Hide Details The following year he was the subject of another documentary by Dick Fontaine, entitled Beyond the Notes.
  • 2007
    Age 76
    During these years, Rollins regularly toured worldwide, playing major venues throughout Europe, South America, the Far East, and Australasia. On September 18, 2007, he performed at Carnegie Hall in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of his first performance there.
    More Details Hide Details Appearing with him were Anderson (trombone), Bobby Broom (guitar), Cranshaw (bass), Dinizulu (percussion), Roy Haynes (drums) and Christian McBride (bass). Around 2000, Rollins began recording many of his live performances; since then, he has archived recordings of over two hundred and fifty concerts. To date, four albums have been released from these archives on Doxy Records and Okeh Records: Road Shows, Vol. 1; Road Shows, Vol. 2 (with four tracks documenting his 80th birthday concert, which included Rollins's first ever recorded appearance with Ornette Coleman on the twenty-minute "Sonnymoon for Two"); Road Shows, Vol. 3; and Holding the Stage, released in April 2016.
  • 2006
    Age 75
    In 2006, Rollins went on to complete a Down Beat Readers Poll triple win for: "Jazzman of the Year", "#1 Tenor Sax Player", and "Recording of the Year" for the CD Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert.
    More Details Hide Details The band that year featured his nephew, trombonist Clifton Anderson, and included bassist Cranshaw, pianist Stephen Scott, percussionist Kimati Dinizulu, and drummer Perry Wilson. After a successful Japanese tour Rollins returned to the recording studio for the first time in five years to record the Grammy-nominated CD Sonny, Please (2006). The CD title is derived from one of his wife's favorite phrases. The album was released on Rollins' own label, Doxy Records, following his departure from Milestone Records after many years and was produced by Anderson. Rollins' band at this time, and on this album, included Cranshaw, guitarist Bobby Broom, drummer Steve Jordan and Dinizulu.
  • 2004
    Age 73
    Rollins was presented with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2004; that year also saw the death of his wife, Lucille.
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  • 2001
    Age 70
    On September 11, 2001, the 71-year-old Rollins, who lived several blocks away, heard the World Trade Center collapse, and was forced to evacuate his apartment, with only his saxophone in hand. Although he was shaken, he traveled to Boston five days later to play a concert at the Berklee School of Music. The live recording of that performance was released on CD in 2005 as Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert, which won the 2006 Grammy for Jazz Instrumental Solo for Rollins' performance of "Why Was I Born?"
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    Rollins won a 2001 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for This Is What I Do (2000).
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  • 1997
    Age 66
    In 1997, he was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" in the Down Beat magazine critics' poll.
    More Details Hide Details The following year, Rollins, a dedicated advocate of environmentalism, released an album entitled Global Warming. Critics such as Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch have noted the disparity between Rollins the recording artist, and Rollins the concert artist. In a May 2005 New Yorker profile, Crouch wrote of Rollins the concert artist:
  • 1995
    Age 64
    New York City Hall proclaimed November 13, 1995, to be "Sonny Rollins Day."
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  • 1993
    Age 62
    In 1993, the Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives opened at the University of Pittsburgh.
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  • 1983
    Age 52
    In 1983, he was honored as a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts.
    More Details Hide Details In 1986, documentary filmmaker Robert Mugge released a film titled Saxophone Colossus. It featured two Rollins performances: a quintet performance at Opus 40 in upstate New York and his Concerto for Saxophone and Symphony with the Yomiuri Shimbun Orchestra in Japan.
  • 1981
    Age 50
    In 1981, he was asked to play uncredited on three tracks by the Rolling Stones for their album Tattoo You, including the single, "Waiting on a Friend".
    More Details Hide Details That November, he led a saxophone masterclass on French television.
  • 1978
    Age 47
    He also frequently played long, extemporaneous unaccompanied cadenzas during performances with his band; a prime example is his introduction to the tune "Autumn Nocturne" on the 1978 album Don't Stop the Carnival.
    More Details Hide Details By the 1980s, Rollins had stopped playing small nightclubs and was appearing mainly in concert halls or outdoor arenas; through the late 1990s he occasionally performed at large New York rock clubs such as Tramps and The Bottom Line.
  • 1974
    Age 43
    In 1974, Rollins added jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley to his band; the group was filmed performing live at Ronnie Scott's in London.
    More Details Hide Details For most of this period Rollins was recorded by producer Orrin Keepnews for Milestone Records (the compilation Silver City: A Celebration of 25 Years on Milestone contains a selection from these years). In 1978 he, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Al Foster toured together as the Milestone Jazzstars. It was also during this period that Rollins' passion for unaccompanied saxophone solos came to the forefront. In 1979 he played unaccompanied on The Tonight Show and in 1985 he released The Solo Album, recorded live at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
  • 1972
    Age 41
    Also in 1972, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in composition.
    More Details Hide Details During the 1970s and 1980s, he also became drawn to R&B, pop, and funk rhythms. Some of his bands during this period featured electric guitar, electric bass, and usually more pop- or funk-oriented drummers.
    Reviewing a March 1972 performance at New York's Village Vanguard night club, The New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett wrote that Rollins "had changed again.
    More Details Hide Details He had become a whirlwind. His runs roared, and there were jarring staccato passages and furious double-time spurts. He seemed to be shouting and gesticulating on his horn, as if he were waving his audience into battle." The same year, he released Next Album and moved to Germantown, New York.
  • 1971
    Age 40
    He returned from his second sabbatical with a performance in Kongsberg, Norway, in 1971.
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  • 1969
    Age 38
    In 1969, Rollins took another two-year sabbatical from public performance.
    More Details Hide Details During this hiatus period, he visited Jamaica for the first time and spent several months studying yoga, meditation, and Eastern philosophies at an ashram in Powai, India, a district of Mumbai.
  • 1968
    Age 37
    In 1968, he was the subject of a television documentary, directed by Dick Fontaine, entitled Who is Sonny Rollins?
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  • 1966
    Age 35
    Upon signing with Impulse! Records, he released a soundtrack to the 1966 film Alfie, as well as There Will Never Be Another You and Sonny Rollins on Impulse!
    More Details Hide Details After East Broadway Run Down (1966), which featured trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones, Rollins did not release another studio album for six years.
  • 1963
    Age 32
    In 1963, he made the first of many tours of Japan.
    More Details Hide Details In 2007, recordings from a 1965 residency at Ronnie Scott's were released by the Harkit label as Live in London; they offer a very different picture of Rollins' playing from the studio albums of the period. (These are unauthorized releases, and Rollins has responded by "bootlegging" them himself and releasing them on his website.)
  • 1962
    Age 31
    He named his 1962 "comeback" album The Bridge at the start of a contract with RCA Records.
    More Details Hide Details Produced by George Avakian, the disc was recorded with a quartet featuring guitarist Jim Hall, Ben Riley on drums, and bassist Bob Cranshaw.
  • 1961
    Age 30
    In November 1961, Rollins returned to the jazz scene with a residency at the Jazz Gallery in Greenwich Village; in March, 1962, he appeared on Ralph Gleason's television series Jazz Casual.
    More Details Hide Details During the 1960s, he lived in Brooklyn, New York.
  • 1959
    Age 28
    By 1959, Rollins had become frustrated with what he perceived as his own musical limitations and took the first – and most famous – of his musical sabbaticals.
    More Details Hide Details While living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he ventured to the pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge to practice, in order to avoid disturbing a neighboring expectant mother. In the summer of 1961, the journalist Ralph Berton happened to pass by the saxophonist on the bridge one day and published an article in Metronome magazine about the occurrence. During this period, Rollins became a dedicated practitioner of yoga.
    In 1959 he toured Europe for the first time, performing in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and France.
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  • 1958
    Age 27
    Following Sonny Rollins and the Big Brass (Sonny Rollins Brass/Sonny Rollins Trio), Rollins made one more studio album in 1958, Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders, before taking a three-year break from recording.
    More Details Hide Details This was a session for Contemporary Records and saw Rollins recording an esoteric mixture of tunes including "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" with a West Coast group made up of pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Manne.
    In 1958, he appeared in Art Kane's A Great Day in Harlem photograph of jazz musicians in New York; as of 2016, he is one of only two surviving musicians from the photo (the other being Benny Golson).
    More Details Hide Details The same year, Rollins recorded another landmark piece for saxophone, bass and drums trio: Freedom Suite. His original sleeve notes said, "How ironic that the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America's culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed; that the Negro, who has exemplified the humanities in his very existence, is being rewarded with inhumanity." The title track is a nineteen-minute improvised bluesy suite; the other side of the album features hard bop workouts of popular show tunes. Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach provided bass and drums, respectively. The LP was available only briefly in its original form, before the record company repackaged it as Shadow Waltz, the title of another piece on the record.
  • 1957
    Age 26
    While in Los Angeles in 1957, Rollins met alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and the two of them practiced together.
    More Details Hide Details Coleman, a pioneer of free jazz, stopped using a pianist in his own band two years later. By this time, Rollins had become well known for taking relatively banal or unconventional songs (such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" on Work Time, "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye" on The Sound of Sonny, and later "Sweet Leilani" on the Grammy-winning album This Is What I Do) and using them as vehicles for improvisation. Rollins acquired the nickname, Newk, because of his facial resemblance to Brooklyn Dodger's star pitcher Don Newcombe. 1957's Newk's Time saw him working with a piano again, in this case Kelly, but one of the most highly regarded tracks is a saxophone/drum duet, "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" with Philly Joe Jones. Later in the same year he made his Carnegie Hall debut and recorded again for Blue Note with Johnson on trombone, Horace Silver or Monk on piano and drummer Art Blakey (released as Sonny Rollins, Volume Two). That December, he and fellow tenor saxophonist Sonny Stitt were featured together on Dizzy Gillespie's album Sonny Side Up.
    In 1957, Rollins pioneered the use of bass and drums, without piano, as accompaniment for his saxophone solos, a texture that came to be known as "strolling."
    More Details Hide Details Two early tenor/bass/drums trio recordings are Way Out West and A Night at the Village Vanguard. Way Out West was so named because it was recorded for California-based Contemporary Records (with Los Angeles drummer Shelly Manne), and because it included country and western songs such as "Wagon Wheels" and "I'm an Old Cowhand". The Village Vanguard album consists of two sets, a matinee with bassist Donald Bailey and drummer Pete LaRoca and an evening set with bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones. Rollins used the trio format intermittently throughout his career, sometimes taking the unusual step of using his sax as a rhythm section instrument during bass and drum solos. Lew Tabackin cited Rollins's pianoless trio as an inspiration to lead his own. Joe Henderson, David S. Ware, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, and Joshua Redman have also led pianoless sax trios.
  • 1956
    Age 25
    In 1956 he also recorded Tenor Madness, using Davis's group – pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones.
    More Details Hide Details The title track is the only recording of Rollins with John Coltrane, who was also a member of Davis's group. At the end of the year Rollins appeared as a sideman on Thelonious Monk's album Brilliant Corners and also recorded his own first album for Blue Note Records, entitled Sonny Rollins, Volume One, with Donald Byrd on trumpet, Wynton Kelly on piano, Gene Ramey on bass, and Roach on drums.
    In 1956 he married the actress and model Dawn Finney.
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    His widely acclaimed album Saxophone Colossus was recorded on June 22, 1956, at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey, with Tommy Flanagan on piano, former Jazz Messengers bassist Doug Watkins, and his favorite drummer, Roach.
    More Details Hide Details This was Rollins's sixth recording as a leader and it included his best-known composition "St. Thomas", a Caribbean calypso based on a tune sung to him by his mother in his childhood, as well as the fast bebop number "Strode Rode", and "Moritat" (the Kurt Weill composition also known as "Mack the Knife"). A long blues solo on Saxophone Colossus, "Blue 7", was analyzed in depth by the composer and critic Gunther Schuller in a 1958 article. In the solo for "St. Thomas", Rollins uses repetition of a rhythmic pattern, and variations of that pattern, covering only a few tones in a tight range, and employing staccato and semi-detached notes. This is interrupted by a sudden flourish, utilizing a much wider range before returning to the former pattern. (Listen to the music sample.) In his book The Jazz Style of Sonny Rollins, David N. Baker explains that Rollins "very often uses rhythm for its own sake. He will sometimes improvise on a rhythmic pattern instead of on the melody or changes." Ever since recording "St. Thomas", Rollins's use of calypso rhythms has been one of his signature contributions to jazz; he often performs traditional Caribbean tunes such as "Hold 'Em Joe" and "Don't Stop the Carnival," and he has written many original calypso-influenced compositions, such as "Duke of Iron," "The Everywhere Calypso," and "Global Warming."
    After the deaths of Brown and the band's pianist, Richie Powell, in a June 1956 automobile accident, Rollins continued playing with Roach and began releasing albums under his own name on Prestige Records, Blue Note, Riverside, and the Los Angeles label Contemporary.
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  • 1955
    Age 24
    Rollins briefly joined the Miles Davis Quintet in the summer of 1955.
    More Details Hide Details Later that year, he joined the Clifford Brown–Max Roach quintet; studio albums documenting his time in the band are Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street and Sonny Rollins Plus 4.
    In 1955, Rollins entered the Federal Medical Center, Lexington, at the time the only assistance in the U.S. for drug addicts.
    More Details Hide Details While there, he volunteered for then-experimental methadone therapy and was able to break his heroin habit, after which he lived for a time in Chicago, briefly rooming with the trumpeter Booker Little. Rollins initially feared sobriety would impair his musicianship, but then went on to greater success.
  • 1954
    Age 23
    A breakthrough arrived in 1954 when he recorded his famous compositions "Oleo", "Airegin", and "Doxy" with a quintet led by Davis that also featured pianist Horace Silver.
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  • 1951
    Age 20
    Between 1951 and 1953, he recorded with Miles Davis, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk.
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  • 1950
    Age 19
    In early 1950, Rollins was arrested for armed robbery and spent ten months in Rikers Island jail before being released on parole; in 1952, he was re-arrested for violating the terms of his parole by using heroin.
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  • 1947
    Age 16
    After graduating from high school in 1947, Rollins began performing professionally; he made his first recordings in early 1949 as a sideman with the bebop singer Babs Gonzales (J. J. Johnson was the arranger of the group).
    More Details Hide Details Within the next few months, he began to make a name for himself, recording with Johnson and appearing under the leadership of pianist Bud Powell, with trumpeter Fats Navarro, on a seminal "hard bop" session.
  • 1946
    Age 15
    Rollins started as a pianist, changed to alto saxophone, and finally switched to tenor in 1946.
    More Details Hide Details During his high school years, he played in a band with other future jazz legends Jackie McLean, Kenny Drew, and Art Taylor.
  • 1930
    Born on September 7, 1930.
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