Sonny Rollins

Growing up in Harlem, New York, Sonny Rollins became a central figure in the boom years of jazz, playing tenor and soprano sax with other greats like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk and writing modern standards like St Thomas, Oleo and Doxy. His first instrument was piano, but it was as an innovative sax player that he secured his legendary status after forming his first jazz bands at school (fellow early band members included Kenny Drew, Art Taylor, and Jackie McLean). Going off the rails, he was imprisoned in the early 1950s for armed robbery and drug abuse, but eventually overcame his heroin habit to develop his famed sax style, in part inspired by mixing traditional jazz technique with more modern R&B and jump music, which was initially dubbed ‘hard bop’ when he started playing with Miles Davis, Modern Jazz Quartet, and Thelonious Monk. Sonny Rollins' big breakthrough came in 1954 when he recorded his own compositions “Oleo,” “Airegin,” and “Doxy” with a quintet led by Miles Davis. Sonny Rollins then moved on to the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet in 1955. The following year, he recorded his acclaimed albums Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness, going on to form a trio that pioneered the use of bass and drums without piano to accompany his sax. In 1958, he released the classic live album A Night at the Village Vanguard, which was the first live album to be recorded at the historic venue. His Freedom Suite from 1958 - inspired by the experience of black Americans - is now regarded as a landmark in sax composition. Through the 1960s, he experimented with different styles, including avant garde (1962’s Our Man in Jazz) and Latin (1962’s What's New), playing the soundtrack to the 1966 movie, Alfie. Sonny Rollins turned to funk and electric music through the 1970s and 1980s, even playing with the Rolling Stones on their Tattoo You album and he continued to be a revered performer and jazz icon through the following decades. Even later albums – including Global Warming (1998), This is What I Do (2000), Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (2001), and Sonny, Please (2006) – received positive response from critics and jazz aficionados alike.

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Stations Featuring Sonny Rollins

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