Sonny Rollins

tenor saxophone

At a time when most of jazz's revered figures are historical, Sonny Rollins continues to create, dominate, and inspire. His brilliance as a musician was documented from his teenage debut to well into senior citizenship. He was born Theodore Walter Rollins in 1930, a child of Harlem who hung out on the near- by stoop of his idol Coleman Hawkins. While still in high school, Rollins caught glimpses of Charlie Parker on 52nd Street and rehearsals in the kitchen of Thelonious Monk. He was the brightest light in a neighbourhood group of future jazz stars that also included Jackie McLean, Kenny Drew, and Art Taylor; and before he turned 20 he was working and recording with Babs Gonzalez, J.J Johnson, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis. A 1951 session with the trumpeter led to his own recording contract, and for the next three years, until he withdrew to conquer a too common drug problem with uncommon finality, he became acknowledged as the most brash and creative young tenor on the scene in work with Davis, Monk, and the Modern jazz Quartet. When Rollins re-emerged in Chicago at the end of 1955 as a member of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet, he was an even more authoritative presence. 

The mid-50 saw him teaming up with almost every Jazz great of the decade; John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Sonny Clark, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Monk and even John Coltrane on a classic album; Tenor Madness featuring the rhythm section of the Davis/Coltrane Quintet Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. In 1956 he recorded Saxophone Colossus, an album that, until today, stands out as one of the greatest ever Jazz recordings. He continued to record classic sessions under his own name often in a trio setting without piano that provided still greater freedom to his imagination. Rollins's first examples of the unaccompanied solo playing that would become a specialty also appeared in this period; yet the perpetually dissatisfied saxophonist questioned the acclaim his music was attracting, and between 1959 and late '61 withdrew from public performance.
While the 1962-64 period saw him returning to action and striking productive relationships with Jim Hall, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, and his idol Hawkins, Rollins again grew dissatisfied with the music business and his own output, and disappeared again for a period of travel and study that took him to India and Japan. Since returning
to recording and performing in 1972, he has released a steady yet by no means excessive stream of recordings (all on the Milestone label), performed a constant though modest schedule of concerts, and gained worldwide acknowledgement as the greatest living jazz soloist. Such hyperbole is all the more impressive for the fact that Rollins has sustained his reputation at the top of the heap for a quarter-century.

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Tenor Titan RCA  
Bluebird's Best: Tenor Titan
Mambo Bounce EPM Musique    
Newk's Time Blue Note 84001  
Newk's Time
Tenor Madness OJC 124-2    
Worktime OJC 007-2    
Saxophone Colossus OJC 291-2    
Plus 4 OJC 243-2    
The Sound of Sonny OJC 029-2    
Way Out West OJC 337-2    
Silver City 25 years on Milestone Milestone 2501    
Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins OJC 059-2    
Moving Out OJC 058-2    
With the Modern Jazz Quartet OJC 011-2    
Rollins Plays for Bird OJC 214-2    
Freedom Suite OJC 067-2  
Alternatives Bluebird  
A Night at the Village Vanguard Blue Note  
A Night at the Village Vanguard
Best of the Blue Note Years Blue Note  
The Blue Note Years: The Best of Sonny Rollins
All the Things You Are Bluebird  
Sonny Rollins and Co. Bluebird  
Sonny Rollins & Co. 1964
The Bridge RCA   
The Bridge
Sonny Meets Hawk RCA  
Sonny Meets Hawk
The Complete RCA Victor RCA  
The Complete RCA Victor Recordings
Alfie Impulse  
Alfie
East Broadway Rundown Impulse  
Plus Three Milestone  
Global Warming Milestone  
Milestone Jazzstars in Concert Milestone  
The Freelance Years Riverside  
On Impulse! Impulse