Grace Notes: Sonny Rollins

Posted by MargieF on Monday, Sep 13, 2010 - 3:57 PM

sonny.JPGLast week the great jazz tenor saxophone player, Walter Theodore "Sonny" Rollins celebrated his 80th birthday. According to Nate Chinen of the New York Times, he did it with style to a sold-out crowd on Friday night at New York's Beacon Theater. His outstanding musical line-up included bassist Bob Cranshaw, guitarist Russell Malone, drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Sammy Figueroa. Musical history was made with the surprise appearances of the drummer Roy Haynes, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Christian McBride. Rollins was born in New York City and spent his youth in Harlem where he played alto saxophone. He was so captivated by the music of Coleman Hawkins and the Bebop movement that he switched from alto to tenor saxophone. He followed Charlie Parker and became a protege of Thelonious Monk. By the time he was twenty, he had played and recorded with Babs Gonzales, J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell and Miles Davis. After spending some time in Chicago, he returned to New York in 1955 as a member of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet. His prodigious technical skills along with an uncanny ability to improvise from familliar tunes from his own unique calypso sound led to brilliant, unaccompanied solo playing at concerts and on records. Among the accolades bestowed upon him during his long, fruitful career are Grammy awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, induction into the Academy of Achievement, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For further information on this musical titan, be sure to check the Library's holdings. In the meantime, listen to an example of his artistry:


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