Rollins, Sonny

Rollins, Sonny (Theodore Walter Rollins), 1930–, African-American tenor saxophonist and composer, b. New York City. A master of jazz improvisation, Rollins is known for his rich tone, emotional depth, and inventive use of melody, harmony, and rhythm. From 1949-54, he was a sideman on recordings by such bop luminaries as Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and Charlie Parker and also composed such now-classic tunes as “Doxy,” “Oleo,” and “Airegin.” Rollins has since led numerous jazz groups and made some 100 recordings; among the most acclaimed are Saxophone Colossus (1956), Freedom Suite (1958), and the Alfie film score (1966). He also has toured extensively, often fusing bop with elements of rock, soul, and other musical styles in ensemble performances, and impressing audiences with his complex improvised solos. Rollins has been awarded many honors, including numerous honorary degress, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), a National Medal of the Arts (2010) and a Kennedy Center Honor (2011). He retired from public perfromance in 2012 due to respiratory problems.

See studies by C. Blancq (1983), E. Nisenson (2000), P. N. Wilson (2001), and R. Palmer (rev. ed. 2004).

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