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  • WDCH
  • Mar. 16, 2005
  • Concert Part of Los Angeles Philharmonic's 2004/2005 Jazz Series at Walt Disney Concert Hall

    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2005, AT 8 PM

    Tenor saxophone legend Sonny Rollins, a jazz pioneer revered for his keen improvisational flair, riveting rhythms, and brilliant harmonic sense, brings his unique jazz magic to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday, March 16, at 8 p.m. Performing for nearly half a century, Rollins remains one of the few surviving icons from a golden era of jazz that will probably never be equaled. The concert is part of the Philharmonic's 2004/2005 Jazz series.

    A bebop and free jazz phenom who helped create the genres, Rollins continues to evolve as a player, always contemplating how better to portray his muse and draw listeners deeper still into the vortex of his creativity. Says Rollins, "There are so many different ways to approach a piece of music in my mind--I think the permutations are endless. Sometimes when I'm soloing, what I'm trying to do is to establish something to go on to from there. This is my dilemma: I'm a guy who makes things up as I go along so nothing is ever going to be finished--there are so many layers. It's just like the musical overtone series; you play one note, but there's another note there at the same time. You can hear the next level. And that's how I feel about improvising--there's always another level to get to."

    Born in New York City in 1930 to music-loving parents of Caribbean ancestry, Rollins studied piano initially but soon turned to the saxophone. Under the mentorship of Thelonious Monk, Rollins began to develop true mastery of the sax. In Harlem, Rollins' contemporaries included Jackie McLean, Kenny Drew, and Art Taylor. Out of this core of future jazz superstars, Rollins was the first to break through by recording tracks with Babs Gonzales, J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis, all before he was 20 years of age. During the 1950's Rollins teamed up with John Coltrane, fueling the evolution of hard bop.

    The final two performances in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Jazz presentations include Joshua Redman, who leads the San Francisco Jazz Collective on Friday, April 8, 2005, at 8 p.m., and James Moody's 80th Birthday Celebration on Sunday, April 30, 2005, at 7:30 p.m.

    When Sonny Rollins picks up the tenor saxophone, the world listens. Like Louis Armstrong and all the great jazz improvisers, Rollins has a unique gift for transforming the most unlikely of songs into extraordinarily expressive vehicles for jazz extrapolation. A rising star by age 20, Rollins was recognized in the early 1950's as one of the most promising, spontaneous, and creative tenor players on the jazz scene, sought after by Miles, Monk, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. In November of 1954, he retreated from the limelight for a time of introspection. He was back by the end of '55, when he re-emerged in Chicago with the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet. He recorded his first LP, Work Time, in December of 1955, which marked the start of a three-year golden period. Sonny was finally officially recognized, by the prestigious Down Beat magazine Critics' Poll, as "New Star of the tenor saxophone in 1957." Rollins and John Coltrane defined hard-bop tenor during this decade, and cemented their legend on their only recorded encounter, Tenor Madness, but by 1959 Rollins was dissatisfied with his progress, and took a famous sabbatical, which often found him practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge. When he returned to active recording with The Bridge, it launched a fervent period of experimentation on recordings such as Our Man in Jazz and East Broadway Rundown, where Rollins explored the implications of the new freedom as epitomized by musicians he himself had inspired: Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler. By decade's end Rollins took one final hiatus in Japan and India studying yoga and spiritual texts, returning to begin a period of spiritual and artistic growth, during which time his sound became richer and more textured, his harmonic/melodic conception grew ever more complex, and his range of rhythmic inflections more varied as he expanded his artistic outreach to include new generations of musical styles and song forms. Rollins resurfaced in the early '70s, and since his return to the scene full time, he has maintained a steady program of carefully chosen performances and recordings. Sonny Rollins continues to reinvent himself. At an age when most musicians would be content to tread water, Sonny Rollins enters his sixth decade as a professional musician in resplendent form. His most recent recording, This Is What I Do, is the work of a musician at his peak, a 21st-century visionary, still evoking the joy of discovery in his listeners, still searching for new challenges.



    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

    Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone

    An Upbeat Live pre-concert event takes place in BP Hall one hour prior to the performance; it is free to all ticketholders.

    Tickets ($25 - $80) are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at, or via credit card phone order at 323.850.2000. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For all information, please call 323.850.2000.

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  • Contact:

    Rachelle Roe, 213.972.7310; photos: 213.972.3034