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Profile of Sonny Rollins

Jazz Musician / Saxophonist
Date Of Birth:
7 September 1930
Place Of Birth:
New York City, New York
Best Known As:
The bop-era saxophonist who did "St. Thomas"

Name at birth: Walter Theodore Rollins

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins made his mark in the early 1950s as a saxophone master in the "hard bop" of jazz, and continued to record and perform for six decades. His 1956 album Saxophone Colossus is considered a classic of the genre and includes pieces representative of his work: calypso-inspired rhythms, as in "St. Thomas," and moments of improvisational genius, as in "Blue 7." Rollins grew up in Harlem and played the piano before switching to the alto and then tenor sax. Musically gifted, he began his professional career when he was just out of high school, in the late 1940s. During the 1950s he played with just about all the greats, from Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk to Miles Davis and Max Roach. He also recorded with his own groups, and after the 1950s was a band leader known for his incredible solos and for piano-less trios. Some of his other albums include Tenor Madness (1956), A Night at the Village Vanguard (1957), The Bridge (1962, recorded after taking a break from music), G-Man (1987) and Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (2005, Rollins lived near the World Trade Centers and had to be evacuated after the attacks in 2001).