Selected by Dan Grunebaum

Sonny Rollins

Courtesy of Yomiuri Shimbun
Sonny Rollins

There are jazz giants... and then there' Sonny Rollins. With Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie having passed on, Rollins remains arguably (perhaps with the addition of fellow saxophonist Ornette Coleman) the greatest living titan of modern jazz. Not even the generous confines of the Blue Note Tokyo would appear to be ample enough to contain this larger-than-life figure, and he's been booked for two nights in May at Nakano Sun Plaza.

Born Theodore Walter Rollins in New York in 1930, Rollins began on the piano, switching to alto sax before finally selecting the tenor sax as his instrument of choice. He became a part of the feverish bebop scene which took off in the postwar years on 52nd street, recording with trumpeter Miles Davis in 1951 and with pianist Thelonius Monk in '53. In 1955 he joined the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet before launching his career as a leadman in '57.

A string of magnificent releases followed on Prestige, Blue Note and other labels, winning him acclaim as the top sax player of his day. Rollins' mighty physique and ability to blow for hours were legendary.

But at the peak of his powers in 1959, Rollins all of a sudden dropped out of music. The reason was the arrival on the scene of the equally impressive John Coltrane, who shook up the jazz world with bold free jazz experiments.

Returning to music in 1961, Rollins had digested the changes altering the direction of jazz, and began to play in a much freer style. One of his most memorable releases, The Bridge, came out in 1962, named for Rollins' days spent honing his chops and pushing the envelope of his music in marathon practice sessions atop the Brooklyn Bridge.

Rollins kept up a torrid pace throughout the '60s, but again retired in 1968. Returning in 1971, he began to absorb the electrification fusion was bringing to jazz. He experimented with a wide variety of sidemen, even on one record recording with a bagpipe player.

Throughout the '80s and '90s, Rollins issued a steady stream of consistent recordings, showcasing his undiminished lung capacity and tonal variety. In the meantime, record companies began to press CD sets of his earlier material such as Jazz Profile (Blue Note), Quartets (BMG), and A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note).

Sonny Rollins plays Nakano Sun Plaza on May 27-28 and Yokohama/Kanagawa Kenmin Hall on June 16.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana