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Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins will go down in history as not only the single most enduring tenor saxophonist of the bebop and hard bop era, but also as one of the greatest contemporary jazz saxophonists of them all. His fluid and harmonically innovative ideas, effortless manner, and easily identifiable and accessible sound have influenced generations of performers, but have also fueled the notion that mainstream jazz music can be widely enjoyed, recognized, and proliferated. Born Theodore Walter Rollins in New York City on September 7, 1930, he had an older brother who played violin. At age nine he took up piano lessons but discontinued them, took up the alto saxophone in high school, and switched to tenor after high school, doing local engagements. In 1948 he recorded with vocalist Babs Gonzales, then Bud Powell and Fats Navarro, and his first composition, "Audubon," was recorded by J.J. Johnson. Soon thereafter, Rollins made the rounds quickly with groups led by Tadd Dameron, Chicago drummer Ike Day, and Miles Davis in 1951, followed by his own recordings with Kenny Drew, Kenny Dorham, and Thelonious Monk.

In 1956 Rollins made his biggest move, joining the famous ensemble of Max Roach and Clifford Brown, then formed his own legendary pianoless trio with bassist Wilbur Ware or Donald Bailey and drummer Elvin Jones or Pete La Roca in 1957, doing recorded sessions at the Village Vanguard. Awards came from DownBeat and Playboy magazines, and recordings were done mainly for the Prestige and Riverside labels, but also for Verve, Blue Note, Columbia, and Contemporary Records, all coinciding with the steadily rising star of Rollins. Pivotal albums such as Tenor Madness (with John Coltrane), Saxophone Colossus (with longstanding partner Tommy Flanagan), and Way Out West (with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne), and collaborations with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Clark Terry, and Sonny Clark firmly established Rollins as a bona fide superstar. He also acquired the nickname "Newk" for his facial resemblance to Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe.

But between 1959 and 1961 he sought a less superficial, more spiritual path to the rat race society of the times, visiting Japan and India, studying yoga and Zen. He left the music business until 1962, when he returned with the groundbreaking and in many ways revolutionary recording The Bridge with guitarist Jim Hall for the RCA Victor/Bluebird label. Rollins struck up a working relationship with trumpeter Don Cherry; did a handful of innovative LPs for the RCA Victor, MGM/Metro Jazz, and Impulse! labels; did one record with his hero Coleman Hawkins; and left the scene again in 1968. By 1971 he came back with a renewed sense of vigor and pride, and put out a string of successful records for the Milestone label that bridged the gap between the contemporary and fusion jazz of the time, the most memorable being his live date from the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival, The Cutting Edge. Merging jazz with calypso, light funk, and post-bop, the career of Rollins not only was revived, but thrived from then onward. He was a member of the touring Milestone Jazz Stars in 1978 with McCoy Tyner and Ron Carter, and gained momentum as a touring headliner and festival showstopper.

His finest Milestone recordings of the second half of his career include Easy Living, Don't Stop the Carnival, G-Man, Old Flames, Plus Three, Global Warming, This Is What I Do, and Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert. He has worked extensively with road and recording bands that have included such artists as electric bass guitarist Bob Cranshaw; trombonist Clifton Anderson; pianists Tommy Flanagan and Stephen Scott; keyboardist Mark Soskin; guitarists Bobby Broom and Jerome Harris; percussionist Kimati Dinizulu; and drummers Jack DeJohnette, Perry Wilson, Steve Jordan, and Al Foster. Rollins formed his own record label, Doxy, through which he issued the CD Sonny, Please in 2006. Well into his eighth decade, Rollins continued to perform worldwide, and was documented on the three-volume Road Show series, also released on Doxy. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: East Broadway Run Down

Comments

I heard If ever I would leave you a few years back while listening to KSDS in San Diego and have been collecting his albums ever since!
I play a Tenor sax so this makes me happy!
dammithoney
'Blue seven' is the perfect jazz solo. Check it out.
There are few Gods of Jazz, and Mr. Rollins is one of them.
alohakghi
This man jams and takes no prisoners!
Great Jazz sounds from this guy Sonny Rollins but never bought any of his recordings in my younger days. Heard of him though. Great sounds anyway.
Words cannot express what Sonny's sound brings to life. His music has been dancing in my head since I was 10 years old, I'll be 65 in 2 months. BLOW SONNY BLOW!!
Oh sonny. ��
No one on Earth can play like Sonny. He is THE god of Tenor Sax.
jeffreymqs64 1
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Unforgivable that above Sonny quotes are for $ or feelgood shite... No one sounz like him. Do u know how jazz sounz like voices as u fall asleep? Sonny's words more clear than anyone else...
claricentp91 7
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Sonny is simply the greatest. I have heard almost all the great sax players, including Bird. Only Parker impressed me more. Sonny feared no one and played with them all, including Coltrane. Trane is great but for me Sonny is greater.
Oh yeah! Good stuff!
I play his songs in jazz band
I'm digin' the sound of his tenor more than ever.
Giants still walk the earth, and one of them is named Sonny Rollins. I've seen him play many times and it has never been less than a very great pleasure. Live long and prosper, Mr. Rollins.
blow sonny blow
No Sullivan. I see Sonny's.
anyone else seeing Max Roach's bio here instead of sonny's?
Yep, I remember all of these guys. Sound track of my life. Time sure flies when your having fun. (and when your not too.) DMB
I walked out on Sonny ... Satan sent a spector - a certain J.Millet to haunt my every breath ... jus sayin`
LOVE this man. I have heard him live 3 times in the past 3 years and life just would not have been the same without it.
joylady90056
If there was ever a movie about my life, this is would be my soundtrack!
I love Sonny Rollins pursuit of perfection that comes through all of his music; his smooth yet intense driving saxophone. His playing is melodic and articulate as if each note or series of notes are words telling a story. I actually interviewed him in the early 80s when he played at an UnderGround Fest that I co-produced.
althelianbri a n
OHHHHHHHHHHH H MY :)
Super Mad!!!
Sonny!
glenn.macy
Saw Sonny at the Schermerhorn in Nashville October 11. Sublime! Still has the smoothness after all these decades. Watch Kobie Watkins, his current drummer. Great things coming his way!
we love us some Sonny Rollins for sure.
we love u sonny you rock im a saxm playr and hope to be just like you with sax
Love me some early Sonny, just can't get with the hit and skip later on...I mean I love a trill and rife as much as the next dude, but bring all the notes along for fun yo.
rkno33
"the man" and his horn....well stablished. yea.
dapat57
Simply lushful
bjmayes1
smooth cool love it
saxability
The thing I enjoy the most about Sonny is the playfulness and expressivene s s he conveys in his playing.I feel as though i know him personally, although we have never met. Hope to see him live while it's possible! He is one of my top 3 tenor players...al o n g w/Coltrane and Brecker. Long live Sonny!!!
Saw Sonny last night at the Burlington Discover Jaxx Festival. His band and him were absolutely amazing! He's turning 80, and can still play like he's 30.
Sonny Rollins - smooth personafied. BF.
Sonny is undoubtedly one of the greats on the saxophone from any era. But, as this reviewer states "the greatest contemporary jazz saxophonist of them all"? Sorry sir, but that was and always shall be Mr. John Coltrane. By the way, Sonny is still gigging as of March 2010. I'm seeing him next month in LA. Peace!
is he still blowin'?
quicksilver3 2 1
Rollins has such great command with his instrument.. . I can't think of anyone that plays with such fire!!!
Rollins is a legend. In his lifetime so far he has made a big mark in the history of music in America and in the world. I'm thankful to Allah for having the imagination and the heart to give the world a Sonny Rollins.
Sonny Rollins, is big, big, big. Big Sound, big Tone, big Soloist, big number of albums recorded, big number of compositions published, big number
of choruses played on solos, big in the field of Music, Big Big Man.
ONE OF THE GREATEST TENOR PLAYERS EVER!!
Not always out there, but always top quality, solid and swinging.
....sonny,mo o d y , n o t too many of the ol' guard left...catch them when you can...pricel e s s ! !
Puts me in an imaginary atmosphere where people appreciate the good things and good sounds and dress well to go listen.
Puts me in an imaginary atmosphere where people appreciate the good things and good sounds and dress well to go listen.
ONE OF THE GREATEST TENOR PLAYERS EVER!!
Listen to Sonny Rollins tear it up with Sonny Stitt and Dizzy Gillespie on Eternal Triangle!!!( F r o m "Sonny Side Up" recorded 1958 (Verve 825 674-2)
The most intense session ever recorded!
Not always out there, but always top quality, solid and swinging.
billy3bam
....sonny,mo o d y , n o t too many of the ol' guard left...catch them when you can...pricel e s s ! !
Puts me in an imaginary atmosphere where people appreciate the good things and good sounds and dress well to go listen.
ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITES ON THE TENOR, ALONG WITH DEXTER GORDON , STAN GETZ ,AND LESTER YOUNG,...TIM E L E S S MUSIC MAN, TIMELESS!!
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