Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Gary Giddins, America's most
authoritative jazz critic, said of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins
that he was “one of the last immortals, the most powerful presence
in jazz today. He is its most cunning, surprising, and unpredictable
improviser – the one musician whose infrequent concert appearances
foster intense anticipation and heated postmortems”.
Giddins wrote that in 1996 and Rollins
-- an old lion at 80 -- is still at large, scheduled to play in
Wellington in June, and is even now picked up accolades. In 2001 he
won a jazz Grammy for his album with the self-effacing title This
is What I Do and three
years later was given a Lifetime Achievement award. In 2006 he picked
up another Grammy for Why Was I Born? on his 9/11 tribute
album Without a Song – recorded just five days after the
World Trade Centre fell -- and the same year won three Down Beat
“I stayed alive long enough that they
finally had to come around to me,” he laughs. “I say that because
so many of my contemporaries were never really honoured properly. But
I'm glad they honour me because they are honouring jazz, not me, and
the great musicians I learned from. So I accept them, they're very
tardy in recogising jazz.”
The New York jazz world in the Fifties wasn't slow in acknowledging Theodore “Sonny” Rollins however. In his late teens he was playing alongside pianist Bud Powell and by his mid 20s – after 10 months in prison for armed robbery then methadone treatment for a heroin habit – he took to bandstands with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other legends in the making . . .
This is an extract from an article which appeared in the New Zealand Listener. For the full story go here.