Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins
at the Jazz Workshop, Boston, c. 1962.
Courtesy of Lee Tanner/Jazz Image.
Born September 9, 1930, in New York City
“I like to think there is a direct link between early jazz and jazz of our time,” tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins once told an interviewer. “I like to think that jazz can be played in a way you can hear the old as well as the new. At least that’s the way I play.”
Few musicians have drawn more fruitfully on the full sweep of the jazz tradition than Rollins. From the huge, aggressive tone of his boyhood neighbor, Coleman Hawkins, to the contributions of the giants of the modern era with whom he apprenticed, from Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk to Max Roach and Miles Davis, Rollins’ music seems to encompass everything he has ever heard or felt.
And few musicians have been as adventurous. His best-known album from the mid-1950s was called “Saxophone Colossus,” and onstage he seems the living embodiment of that word, capable of an apparently endless flow of improvisational ideas built around everything from Tin Pan Alley tunes to calypso music and his own classic compositions. Restless, rarely satisfied, and contemplative, Rollins abandoned performing several times over the years in order to refine his art and rebuild his strength before returning to the bandstand to triumph once again.
Learn more: www.sonnyrollins.com
Listen to more music at NPR: www.npr.org/programs/jazzprofiles/archive/rollins.html