Personalities | Sonny Rollins | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
(Tenor and soprano saxophone, b. 1930)
Sonny Rollins stands alongside John Coltrane as the major bop-rooted stylist on tenor saxophone. He cut his teeth in New York with bop giants including Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. He was a member of the Clifford Brown–Max Roach Quintet (1955–57), and has led his own bands since then. His late 1950s recordings confirmed his standing as one of the great talents in the music; calypso-based tunes have been a recurring motif since ‘St. Thomas’ (1956).
He stopped performing to recharge creatively between 1959–61, then recorded with an early hero, Coleman Hawkins (1963), and flirted with the emerging free jazz avant-garde (1965–66). He took his long and discursive soloing to its logical conclusion in The Solo Album (1985) and experimented with soprano saxophone, also adding various electric instruments to his group. Rollins is capable of a power and invention that few musicians in jazz have been able to match.
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