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Sonny Rollins, b. 1930

 

The name of his most critically-acclaimed album, “SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS,” is truly an apt title. Rollins, and his only peer, the late John Coltrane, remain alone at the pinnacle of modern jazz tenor sax.  Renowned for his seemingly endless stream of ideas, he often re-tools unusual or light tunes (“Toot Toot Tootsie Good-bye,” “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”) into improvised jewels.

 

He honed his hard-edged style as a teenager with his early idols Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, Roy Haynes, et al.  He has taken numerous sabbaticals from performing due to his disgust with the jazz music business in order to study religion, travel, and, as he says, “to preserve my sanity.”  Upon his return from one of these, he recorded one of his most famous works, “The Bridge” with guitarist Jim Hall.  He has scores of acclaimed recordings on Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse, to name just three labels.

Rollins has not performed in public since 2012. In 2017 he donated his personal archive to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library. Later that year he endowed the “Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund” at Oberlin College, in “…recognition of the institutions long legacy of access and social justice advocacy.”

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Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.