6 Songs, 40 Minutes

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About Sonny Rollins

For generations, Sonny Rollins has not only set the standard on tenor saxophone—he's elevated jazz as a whole, embodying what many regard as the essence of a great improviser. Schooled on the job by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, the NYC-born Rollins landed a key gig with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet in 1955. But even in the midst of huge success, he strove to play better—to be truer to his creative intentions. Possessed of a monastic self-discipline, Rollins took sabbaticals for practice and introspection, most famously from 1959 to 1961, when he could be seen woodshedding on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York. He strove for a more joyously melodic approach and a big sound while showing daunting facility with the harmonic demands of bebop and post-bebop. He reconciles influences from calypso to free jazz to pop, and he can transform the simplest showtune into a thing of enduring beauty. And a half-century of yoga practice also opened doors in his work to a more authentic expression of the self: witness his endurance on the solo intro to “Autumn Nocturne,” from 1978's Don’t Stop the Carnival, for an almost meditative experience.

HOMETOWN
New York, NY
GENRE
Jazz
BORN
September 7, 1930

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