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Sun, 09.07.1930

Sonny Rollins, Jazz Musician born

Sonny Rollins

On this date in 1930, Sonny Rollins was born. He is a Black jazz musician.

Theodore Walter Rollins was born in New York City to parents from the United States Virgin Islands.  The youngest of three siblings, he grew up in central Harlem and on Sugar Hill and started his musical career on piano, took up the alto, and then permanently switched to tenor in 1946. After his start with Babs Gonzales in 1949, Rollins made a major impact with J.J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, and Bud Powell.  

Rollins' skills were obvious to the jazz world from the first note.  Rollins began to make a major name for himself when he recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet and with Miles Davis in 1951, and two years later, with Thelonious Monk. After an interlude out of music, Rollins joined the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, where he worked from 1955 until 1957.

As a leader, his series of recordings placed him in peak form.  Rollins' decision to drop out of music from 1959-to 61 stunned the jazz world. When he came back with a quartet, he soon became a much freer player. Rollins was a major force until, in 1968, he again decided to retire. Returning again in 1971, he was more open to the sway of R&B rhythms and pop music, but Rollins remains a very fundamental soloist.  Rollins' career has continued with annual international concert tours and numerous albums.

Rollins has been one of the true jazz giants. He was one of the all-time great tenor saxophonists for over 50 years.  His ability to turn doubtful material into jazz, his solos, and his rhythmic freedom and tonal distortions have kept Sonny Rollins one of the masters of jazz into the 21st century.

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A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York
Copyright 1997
ISBN 0-306-80778-5

Image: John Abbott

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