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Sonny Rollins: Mark of Greatness

By Published: February 7, 2012
This jazz, this improvisational music, this American classical music, is vital and strong. Like everything, it can have its rough times, but it can never be squelched. "I feel there are a lot of young guys out there that can play," says Rollins. "Plus, jazz's introduction into the university has also produced a lot of very gifted young players. The jazz schools are burgeoning. The young guys—people like jazz. They love jazz. I don't know why the government is so slow to accept it. People love jazz in the United States, as well as around the world. But the problem with the United States not doing its part is that there are no places for jazz to be played. There are not enough venues. There should be afternoon concerts and TV shows with young jazz musicians. ... We need people in Washington that realize this is not only our gift to the world, but it's also important the musicians are taken care of. There are places where jazz can be played and appreciated: afternoon concerts, things like that—not just nightclubs. All sorts of other things are more respectable—places where jazz can be played and promulgated. That's what we need. Then people will like it. They'll hear more. It's important that people like it.

"Jazz is a real art form. It's not something you can pick up and do in 10 minutes. You have to study it. It's great to study music. ... It's short-sighted and regressive thinking, which unfortunately exists in the world and exists in this country, and keeps jazz in the position where it keeps fighting to find a place to be heard. You've got to play in a nightclub and all the elements around a nightclub. But still, it survives. And when you go outside the United States you realize how much it survives."

Rollins, still the road warrior, continues moving forward, creating footprints that can be studied and followed forever, always valuable. "Make your way. Do the best you can. It's not long. It's a short life. Do the best you can, and we'll be ready for whatever happens," he reflects. "People tell me, 'Sonny, you believe in reincarnation.' I said, 'Look, I believe in reincarnation only because it seems to make sense.' But I'm not living my life for reincarnation, I'm living my life for now: this life, today. I'm trying to do right and be correct today—every day I live. Know what I mean? It has nothing to do with after you die. Heck with that. I'm living now and trying to right now. If that brings rewards, fine. It's bringing rewards for me now. So I'm ahead, anyway."

Selected Discography:

Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy, 2011)

Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy, 2008)

Sonny Rollins, Sonny Please (EmArcy/Doxy, 2006)

Sonny Rollins, Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone , 2005)

Sonny Rollins, Global Warming (Milestone, 1998)

Sonny Rollins, The Solo Album (Milestone, 1985)

Sonny Rollins, Don't Stop the Carnival (Milestone, 1978)

Sonny Rollins, Nucleus (Milestone, 1975)

Sonny Rollins, East Broadway Rundown (Impulse, 1966)

Sonny Rollins, Alfie (Impulse, 1966)

Sonny Rollins, Sonny Meets Hawk (RCA, 1963)

Sonny Rollins, The Bridge (Bluebird, 1962)

Sonny Rollins, A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957)

Sonny Rollins, Way Out West (Contemporary Records, 1957)

Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners (Riverside, 1957)

Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness (Prestige, 1956)

Clifford Brown and Max Roach, At Basin Street (Polygram, 1956)

Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus (Prestige, 1956)

Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins (Prestige, 1954)

Miles Davis, Bags' Groove (Prestige, 1954)

Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins Quartet (Prestige, 1951)

Miles Davis, Dig (Prestige, 1951)

Bud Powell, The Amazing Bud Powell (Blue Note, 1949)

Photo Credits
Page 1: Folkver Per
Page 2: Matthew J. Lee
Page 3: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

Page 4: Seth Wenig

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