posted by robert j. carmack #@blues2jazzguy
SONNY ROLLINS SEPTEMBER 7 1930
Sonny Rollins turned 85 years old today . its hard to believe ,not because of his age, but, in spite of his age. He still holds court somewhere in the world on major stages blowing long, multi-note phrases, swinging violently on the most miniscule of sub-themes set up by his own improvisations. Very few things are more exciting than watching and listening to Sonny Rollins in Beast mode. My first experience seeing and hearing him was as a curious child watching 1950s television, that just happened to have a jazz band playing that night. I saw this really cool looking black man with a shiny horn , sun glasses and a Mohawk. I think it was Steve Allen or Jack Parr’s version of the The Tonight Show. Sonny Rollins was more than a jazz musician, he was a mentor to other jazz musicians, cultural and fashion icon whose influences went beyond the bandstand as well. He was the first black man I ever saw with a Mohawk (1959)..Quite the dresser on stage when he wanted to, He was the first I ever saw with clean-shaved head(1960s) and diamond-studded Ascot.
My first live Sonny Rollins concert, I was now 21 and living in Los Angeles 1971, he was performing at the museum of modern Art outside.. I watched with such wide-eyed delight as he swung so hard on unbelievable tempos, countered that with such tender,velvety arpeggios like he did on such classics as, I Can’t Get Started or Don’t Blame Me. Fast-forward to late 1990s and I’m now living in Atlanta Georgia watching a much older man with full head of snow-white hair and full beard, with a very nice suit with red “Chuck Taylor” Converse basketball shoes. This time his band personnel was young guys except for his long-time bassist Bob Cranshaw. The results were still the same…long-winded solos on jazz standards and some west indian folk songs paying homage to Rollins’ West Indian roots.
This man has appeared in countless numbers of countries on even more super numbers of stages,over (7) seven decades of playing professionally and like a great Rolls Royce classic, even though high milage, He still purrs and runs like new.
Well done sir! Happy Birthday Sonny, keep coming back!