Sonny Rollins

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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.

New York, NY
Sep 7, 1930

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