Category: Rollins, Sonny

Sonny Rollins interviewed by Joshua Redman: Newk’s time

sonnyRollinsHere is a great 2005 interview with the legendary Sonny Rollins conducted by modern master Joshua Redman. The two tenor greats discuss everything from Sonny’s early days in New York to never being satisfied with one of his performances. Included at the bottom of the piece are many quotes from other musicians about Sonny Rollins, which are great reading all on their own!

From the interview:

JR: The ’50s and ’60s were an amazing age in music, where all these incredible innovations were taking place. Among musicians in my generation, with everything we’ve read and heard, there is a perception that there was more of a life for jazz on the streets of New York, a sense of real community; musicians playing and recording with each other all the time. Is that true?

SR: Well, in those days-and I’m speaking now primarily of when I came on the scene, the latter part of the ’40s, into the ’50s and so on, there was less money to be made. Therefore, the guys sort of stuck together. It was more about the music than about becoming a household name-especially the type of music that was making the break from swing; the guys that were doing that felt marginalized anyway, so they had a community and it was a very close-knit community. There were the usual problems between human beings, but the jazz community, the guys that were playing, they were naturally brought closer together because there weren’t that many places to play. There were just clubs, and clubs were small, and not that much money to be made, not as many records sold.

Click here to read Sonny Rollins interviewed by Joshua Redman: Newk’s time

—Peter Blasevick

Sonny Rollins in India – Learning Yoga and Why

Bret Primack, better known as JazzVideoGuy, is a treasure trove of great interviews, documentaries, and performances on YouTube, many of which feature the legendary Sonny Rollins. He recently posted a bunch more with the tenor great, including this one on Sonny’s 1967 trip to India, where he lived in an Ashram and studied Yoga. 

—Peter Blasevick

Sonny Rollins: ‘You Can’t Think And Play At The Same Time’

sonnyRollinsThe legendary Sonny Rollins released the third installment of his Road Shows series of live albums last week, and he spoke with NPR about why he prefers recording live to in the studio these days. From the interview:

What’s hard for you about listening to older recordings of yourself?

Well, the older recordings I don’t mind so much, because in those days — you know, when I was recording with J.J. Johnson and Bud Powell and all those great people — we just went in the studio for a short time, and we knew that was it. We rose to the occasion without any afterthought or forethought; we just went in there and recorded. Now, it’s a lot different. When I was in the recording studio over at Fantasy [Records] for many years, I had the option of listening back and doing another take, and I did five, ten takes. That sort of changed the dynamic.

Click here to read or listen to Sonny Rollins: ‘You Can’t Think And Play At The Same Time’

—Peter Blasevick

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Sonny Rollins 2011

sonnyRollinsFor the next couple weeks, I am going to be linking to audio clips and transcriptions from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Today, a fantastic 50 pages with the great Sonny Rollins. In addition to the full transcript, there are four audio clips of Sonny discussing what attracted him to jazz, approaching established musicians during his early years, what makes a good improvisation, his positioning on stage, and his repertoire outside of the usual jazz standards. From the interview, here is Rollins talking to Larry Appelbaum about playing at clubs owned by a certain type of businessman:

Appelbaum: Were most of the clubs mob owned…owned by the mob? 

Rollins: Uh…let’s see now. Well, the clubs that I started playing with uptown, I started playing, we played at uh…the club up on 155th Street we played around. The clubs right they were smaller scale clubs. They weren’t mob owned. They were owned by people in the community, the neighborhood. Um…as you went downtown–and, of course, we all know that The Cotton Club was owned by Lucky Luciano, or some people in that group–those clubs were owned. I think the bigger-named clubs, the mob was involved with those, you know. 

Appelbaum: Did you ever work those clubs? 

Rollins: Uh, well, I worked at the uh…let’s see. I think, I, I, I think they were uh…there was a club–The Cafe Bohemia–that a lot of guys played, I think there were probably mob people that had those properties, you know. And even the Termini Brothers at the Five Spot, I think there were mob people that had those properties, and they might have let the Termini Brothers operate them, you know. I’m not suggesting they were connected, but they were connected, I think, to that extent. And uh…some of those places um…I think 52nd Street there were a lot of so-called “mob connections” with some of the people. Um…but yeah, some, some of the players I would say. The local places, no, I don’t think so.

Click here to listen to and read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Sonny Rollins 2011

—Peter Blasevick

In conversation with Sonny Rollins

Today, a great 2009 interview with the legendary Sonny Rollins From Stuart Nicolson and Topics the great tenor saxophonist covers here are greats Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, his theory of improvisation, and more. From the interview, on improvising:

sonnyRollinsIn fact, in a way, improvisation is making the mind blank. When I’m playing, I’m in a trance. I’m not thinking of anything. Sometimes I’ve thought about a nice pattern I wanted to play, maybe a little riff on the song. It’s very clever and I’d think about it and go, ‘Oh yeah, this song I’ll put in this clever riff, it’ll really sound clever, everybody will think I’m clever!’ But I can’t do it, because when I think about putting it in someplace, the music has gone by so fast that it doesn’t work, so I just forget it. Just absorb it and it comes out at some weird time and for some weird reason from the subconscious, so I’ll play it, but don’t try to manage it and put it in to a solo. So that’s what I have learned about music about improvisation and it’s beautiful. I think somebody told me Miles [Davis] said something like that, he learns something and he forgets it because you can’t be creative if you know too much about what you’re doing.

Click here to read In conversation with Sonny Rollins

Like Sonny: The Story of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane

The last day of JazzVideoGuy week here at TNYDP; thanx Bret for all you do for Jazz. Check out his channel on YouTube, there’s just a ton to watch.

And what week of interviews from JazzVideoGuy would be complete without one from his favorite subject, the incomparable Sonny Rollins? In this piece, Bret explores the unique relationship between John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, two of the most important Jazz musicians in history.

— Peter Blasevick

Sonny Rollins on Tavis Smiley 2011

I’m going to list a few interviews from talk show host Tavis Smiley’s archive of shows this week. Todays is a 25 minute long 2011 talk with the great Sonny Rollins. From the interview, Sonny responds to Smiley’s question about the legend’s constant search for improvement:

“Music is one of these things…there’s no end to music. If you are the type of person that can absorb it, it’s there to keep doing more. I’m that type of person, I want to do more. Cause look, I’ve been with some great, great musicians and I know what this greatness i,s and I heard great musicians coming up. I wanna get there…I don’t think I’m there yet.”

Not there yet. Yikes.

— Peter Blasevick

Sonny Rollins: Mark of Greatness

In December of 2011, Rollins was among five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, awarded annually for exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts. In March of 2011, Rollins was in Washington, D.C. to receive the National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Rollins, at 81, continues to play his horn with such passion, intensity and creativity that he also garners the highest praises in the jazz community. He regularly tops annual magazine polls. He wasMusician of the Year and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year in 2011, as voted by the Jazz Journalists Association. Rollins’ recording Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy, 2011) is up for two Grammy awards in February, 2012.

Rollins discusses touring, recording, the state of jazz in America, and his early days in this 2012 interview from

Click here for the interview