Digging into the best of the Saxophone Colossus from 1953 to 1966
With all the chaos in the world today, knowing the great tenor master Sonny Rollins celebrates his 90th year today should provide a much needed ray of light for those suffering through 2020 in its seemingly bottomless cup of sorrow.
Though he might have gotten his start in 1949, it wasn’t until a little further into the Eisenhower years did Sonny really hit his first creative stride as a bandleader for a succession of groups featuring such fellow immortals of jazz as Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sir Miles Davis and so many others heading into the 1960s. That period between 1953 and 1966 yielded some of the best jazz music ever created, and much of it at the hand of Sonny thanks to such masterpieces as Saxophonw Colossus, Tenor Madness, Newk’s Time, Way Out West, The Bridge, Oleo, “Alfie” and so many others.
Every era of Sonny is essential, especially his work in the 80s on albums like 1982’s Reel Life and the 1987 LP Dancing In The Dark, where Rollins kicks off the set with a cover of “Just Once,” originally sung by the late, great James Ingram off Quincy Jones’ smash 1981 LP The Dude. And how can we forget Sonny on the street with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Peter Tosh in the video for “Waiting On A Friend”.
VIDEO: Rolling Stones “Waiting On A Friend”
But for his 90th birthday, I felt the right thing to do was hang out in that imperial era of the Sonny Rollins catalog when he was recording for Prestige, RCA Victor, Blue Note and Impulse!, just churning out sessions at Van Gelder Studios like he was Robert Pollard and shit.
Happy Birthday to Theodore Walter Rollins, born on September 7, 1930. He is a true American treasure, a child of Harlem, a master of music. He is loved.