sonny rollins

Sonny Rollins has for over 40 years been one of the true jazz giants, ranking up there with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and John Coltrane as one of the all time great tenor saxophonists. He started on piano, took up the alto and then permanently switched to tenor in 1946. After making his recording debut with Babs Gonzales in 1949, Rollins made a major impact on dates with J.J. Johnson and Bud Powell the same year; the latter session also matched him with Fats Navarro. Rollins' abilities were obvious to the jazz world from the start and he started recording with Miles Davis in 1951 and with Thelonious Monk two years later. After a period out of music, Rollins joined the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet in late 1955, continuing after Brownie's death until 1957. From then on he was always a leader.

Sonny Rollins' series of brilliant recordings for Prestige, Blue Note, Contemporary and Riverside in the 1950s found him in peak form and he was acclaimed the top tenor saxophonist of the time, at least until John Coltrane rose to prominence. Therefore Rollins' decision to drop out of music from 1959-61 shocked the jazz world. When he came back in 1961 with a quartet featuring Jim Hall, his style was largely unchanged but he soon became a much freer player who was well aware of Ornette Coleman's innovations; he even used Ornette's cornetist Don Cherry for a time. Although his playing was a bit more eccentric than previously, Rollins was a major force until in 1968 he again decided to retire.

Upon his return in 1971, Sonny Rollins was more open to the influence of R&B rhythms and pop music and his recordings since then have not always been essential (often using sidemen not up to his level) but Rollins remains a very vital soloist. His skill at turning unlikely material into jazz, his unaccompanied flights and his rhythmic freedom and tonal distortions have kept Sonny Rollins one of the masters of jazz into the mid-'90s. He has literally dozens of superior recordings currently available.



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