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Sonny Rollins

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Information about Sonny Rollins

Profile image of Sonny Rollins

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Jazz Composer
Saxophonist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Cauliflower
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Favorite Quote:
It's All Good.

Birthplace

Born:
9/7/1930
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Jazz Composer
Saxophonist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Cauliflower
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Favorite Quote:
It's All Good.

Birthplace

Born:
9/7/1930
Birth Location:
New York
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Biography

Jazz composer and saxophonist Sonny Rollins was born on September 7, 1930 in New York City. His parents, immigrants from the U.S. Virgin Islands, raised him in Manhattan’s central Harlem and Sugar Hill neighborhoods. Rollins received his first alto saxophone at seven years old; and was heavily influenced by saxophonist Charlie Parker by the time he enrolled at Edward W. Stitt Junior High School. Rollins switched to tenor saxophone, and was mentored by pianist Thelonious Monk.

Upon graduating from high school, Rollins made his first recordings with Babs Gonzales, J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell, and Fats Navarro. He went on to record with such jazz legends as Miles Davis, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. In 1954, Rollins’ compositions “Oleo,” “Airegin,” and “Doxy” were featured on Miles Davis’ Bags' Groove. He later moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he became immersed in the jazz scene at Hyde Park’s Bee Hive club. When Clifford Brown and Max Roach’s band visited Chicago, Rollins was invited to join them, returning to New York City in the summer of 1956. After the tragic deaths of Brown and the band’s pianist, Rollins left the band to lead his own group, recording the acclaimed album Saxophone Colossus, which included Rollins’ calypso-inspired composition “St. Thomas.” In 1957, Rollins pioneered the use of bass and drums, without piano, as accompaniment for saxophone solos, a format later adopted by such band leaders like Lew Tabackin, Branford Marsalis, and Ornette Coleman. In 1958, he recorded Freedom Suite, which received a limited release before being repackaged by Riverside Records.

In 1959, Rollins spent two years practicing yoga and playing saxophone on the Williamsburg Bridge. In 1962, he released The Bridge, which was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He also produced five other albums. Rollins experimented with free jazz and noise on East Broadway Run Down, released in 1962. He took another hiatus from 1969 to 1971, travelling to Jamaica and to an ashram in Powai, India. Rollins then began recording more R&B and funk-oriented tracks with Milestone Records, appearing at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and on The Tonight Show. In 1998, Rollins, a dedicated environmental advocate, released Global Warming.

Rollins recorded over sixty albums, and was the subject of many documentaries. He received numerous awards and honors, including the Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.

Sonny Rollins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 3, 2016.

See how Sonny Rollins is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sonny Rollins' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins remembers his father's U.S. Navy career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins recalls his father's requests to be assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sonny Rollins describes the sounds of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sonny Rollins remembers his early interest in blues music
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sonny Rollins recalls learning to play the saxophone
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins recalls the early influence of Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins recalls his requests for lessons from older jazz musicians
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins remembers joining Thelonius Monk's band
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins remembers the influence of a childhood prank, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins remembers the influence of a childhood prank, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins reflects upon the impact of his spirituality on his music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins talks about the prevalence of drugs in the jazz community
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins describes his imprisonment on Rikers Island in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sonny Rollins remembers his attempts to stop using heroin
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins describes the United States Narcotic Farm in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins remembers his efforts to avoid a drug relapse
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins recalls his return to the music scene
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins remembers moving to the Wabash Avenue YMCA in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins recalls traveling with the Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins talks about playing with the Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins remembers the deaths of Clifford Brown and Richie Powell
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins remembers the aftermath of the death of Clifford Brown
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins lists his early albums
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins remembers Miles Davis
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins describes his first wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins describes the genres of his music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins talks about his protest music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins remembers his album, 'Freedom Suite'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins talks about his Mohawk hairstyle
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sonny Rollins remembers his first sabbatical from recording
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sonny Rollins recalls practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins recalls developing an interest in yoga
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins remembers his trip to India, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins remembers his trip to India, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins recalls playing the saxophone in India
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins describes his homes in New York
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins talks about his musical development in the 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins remembers playing with bagpiper Rufus Harley
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins recalls popularizing the unaccompanied saxophone solo
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins describes his media appearances
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins recalls his work to change the perceptions of jazz music
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins remembers recording with the Rolling Stones
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins talks about the Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins describes his album, 'Global Warming'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins remembers the attacks of September 11, 2001
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins describes his performance after September 11, 2001
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sonny Rollins remembers his wife's death
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins talks about Doxy Records
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sonny Rollins talks about contemporary jazz music
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sonny Rollins talks about jazz expression
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sonny Rollins talks about his idea of unity
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sonny Rollins reflects upon his life, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sonny Rollins shares his advice to aspiring jazz artists
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sonny Rollins reflects upon his life, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sonny Rollins narrates his photographs