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Theodore Walter Rollins was born on September 7, 1930 in New York City to a musical family and grew up in Harlem. He began playing alto saxophone at a young age as a result of interest in Louie Jordan and switched to tenor saxophone at age sixteen due to the influence of Coleman Hawkins. Bebop surrounded him growing up, as he would follow around Charlie Parker, and his neighbors in Sugar Hill included Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Jackie Mclean, Kenny Drew, Art Taylor and Hawkins. In his late teens, Monk was his musical mentor and guru.
In 1950, Sonny began what would be a regular pattern for him, leaving the public jazz scene for a period of time to work on his craft and rhythmic understanding of music. He studied with drummer Ike Day in Chicago before returning to the New York scene a year later. By the time Sonny was in his early twenties he had played and recorded with Babs Gonzales, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Fats Navarro, JJ Johnson, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Miles Davis among others. In 1955 he joined with Max Roach and Clifford Brown, and with them continued exploring the rhythmic possibilities in jazz that would define Sonny's contributions to the music as well as his style as a saxophonist.
Sonny continues to this day, performing internationally and developing his art, only to take his self imposed exiles to constantly improve himself musically and spiritually. Rollins studied Rosicrucianism and Yoga among other practices. In 1972, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his contributions to modern music. Don't miss out on any possible chance to see this living legend while he is still with us.