Texas Monthly Talks with Sonny Rollins

Program: Texas Monthly Talks
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, May 21
Also airs: Sunday, May 24, at 12:30 p.m.
Watch episodes online at klru.org/texasmonthlytalks or klru.tv

Musician Sonny Rollins from Texas Monthly Talks on Vimeo.

As much he dislikes the word – as much as he thinks it makes him sound like a has-been, or a no-longer-is – Sonny Rollins is unquestionably a legend; no other word can possibly do justice to the self-described saxophone colossus and his truly remarkable career, which spans seven decades and includes a virtual who’s-who of jazz as supporting players. Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Theolonius Monk, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Don Cherry, Art Blakey, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones: There is literally no one consequential last century or this that Rollins did not work with, record with, blow his horn for or alongside. In every era, at every memorable moment, he was there, lost in his own world, practicing endlessly or performing flawlessly, without regard to time, space, or anything else along life’s continuum. And at 78, slowed by age but as committed as ever to his art, he’s still doing it. Born in Harlem and raised within earshot of the Apollo Theater, the Savoy Ballroom, Abyssinian Baptist Church, and other, yes, legendary venues, Rollins got his first alto saxophone — a gift from his mother – at age nine. In his teens he switched to tenor sax, inspired by the great Coleman Hawkins, and before age 20 he was a familiar figure around the neighborhood – so much so that he was asked to sit in with Miles and other greats. All these years later, after sixty records a band leader and a handful as a sideman, Rollins continues to draw big crowds of loyal fans and otherwise hard-to-please critics who all but go limp in his presence. Such is the enduring power of his music, as he demonstrated at UT-Austin’s Performing Arts Center in May, and such is the irresistible appeal of his cool-cat demeanor, as you’re about to see.

— Evan Smith, host of Texas Monthly Talks