Saxophone Colossus



Sonny Rollins has established a reputation as one of the most important jazz musicians of the last forty years. In this six-part series, he talks to fellow saxophonist John Surman about his long career, beginning with his early days in Harlem, a neighbourhood permeated by music. He was particularly impressed by Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker. `I had to paint eyebrow pencil on my lips to look like I had a moustache, you know, to get into these clubs down on 52nd Street!'.


In the second of six programmes, Sonny Rollins tells John Surman about how he joined the Miles Davis band in 1951, when he was 21. He went on to play with a famous hard-bop group co-led by trumpeter Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach.


Sonny Rollins tells John Surman about his great friendship with John Coltrane, which began in 1949. `Coltrane was a guy I borrowed money from and could borrow money from - I mean that's the kind of relationship we had.' Then there was pianist Thelonius Monk: `Monk was 14 years older than me. He was sort of my guru, my teacher, and I learned a lot from him.'.


Sonny Rollins tells John Surman how he came to form a trio with bass and drums - an unusual line-up at the time - and how he went on to write an extended work, `The Freedom Suite', for that group. Then, in 1960, he took a year out from performing and was to be seen practising alone, high up on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York


Sonny Rollins tells John Surman about his work with trumpeter Don Cherry and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins in the 1960s. During that period, he played at Ronnie Scott's club for the first time, and this led to a request to compose the music for the film `Alfie'.

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Sonny Rollins tells John Surman about his solo concerts and the role that his wife Lucille plays in his career. `I was a janitor at one place and I was an excellent janitor, but there was nothing, I realised, that I could do that would give me the fulfilment that music could.'.