Saxophone Colossus

Sonny Rollins

Keep doing your best! Practice your craft and continue to learn. If you stay focused you have a chance to be very good, and maybe even great. Such words of encouragement are usually spoken to young musicians in order to inspire them to continue hard work. Practice is the toughest part of musicianship and when we see and hear greatness, it means the artist is dedicated to his or her craft. When we meet someone who has performed for many years, we applaud the dedication and years of work. One such artist is Sonny Rollins. Last week Mr. Rollins received even more accolades when he garnered musician of the year honors for a second straight year by the Jazz Journalists Association.  In 2011 he was named an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2010 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. At eighty-one years young Sonny Rollins is still active performing and recording and doing it very well. I remember hearing Rollins live only once in my life. He was in concert with fellow jazz great the late Freddie Hubbard. This was an amazing concert because everyone was giving a great performance. Hubbard, Rollins, back up band members, even the sound engineers were on top of their game. I went over to speak with the head engineer about the excellent job he was doing and he gave me a pair of headphones to hear some of the techniques used in this outdoor venue. As great as Rollins played that day, he has gone on to have better performances since I heard him twenty-five years ago.  In fact, Sonny Rollins is widely known as one of the most important and influential musicians in jazz history. One of his best known albums, “Saxophone Colossus” recorded in 1956, set him up for greatness in the jazz music world and even gave him another nickname: Colossus.  I found his comments after receiving his latest award interesting. “I was born with some talent for which I am grateful,” Rollins said in a statement read from the stage at the Blue Note jazz club by emcee Josh Jackson, host of WBGO’s jazz music magazine “The Checkout“.  I copied and learned from my predecessors and I’m grateful to them.”  That sounds familiar! He basically practiced, worked hard and listened to others and continued to learn. What more can you say about an eighty-one year old performer who is still active after over sixty-years? Normally, at this point in a commentary I say something about possible future music.  It’s a safe assumption there will be more Sonny Rollins music and even more awards regardless of his age. Mr. Rollins, thank you for the hard work and dedication. Indeed!

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