October 21, 2006


Saxophone Colossus Strides Into a New Life (NATE CHINEN, 10/21/06, NY Times)

Until recently, Sonny Rollins practiced his tenor saxophone in a cottage studio a short, loping distance from his house here, on the rustic property he and his wife, Lucille, bought nearly 35 years ago. Mr. Rollins, who has long been lionized, partly for his intense, solitary practicing — or woodshedding, in jazz argot — would often work in the cottage past nightfall. At the house, his wife would turn on the porch light so he could find his way back through the dark.

Lucille Rollins died not quite two years ago, and Mr. Rollins initially turned to his regimen for solace. “So I came out here a few times,” he said in his studio one recent afternoon, “and then I looked, and there was no light on the porch. It just kind of highlighted that, well, there’s nobody there now.” These days, he practices in the house.

Mr. Rollins has faced many more changes since the death of his wife, who scrupulously managed his business affairs for more than 30 years. Last year he fulfilled his recording contract with Milestone, and instead of renewing it, he formed his own label, Doxy Records, through which he is releasing his strongest studio album in a decade or more, “Sonny, Please.” And while the album has been licensed to Universal, which plans to distribute a digital version next month and a CD in January, it has quietly been available for several months, along with other merchandise and free audio and video clips, at sonnyrollins.com. For Mr. Rollins, who turned 76 six weeks ago, this has all been new terrain.

As an elder statesman, Mr. Rollins is aware of the emblematic impact of his decision to abandon the traditional recording-industry model, though he plays down that impact. “This is where the business is going,” he said. “I hate technology myself, but that aside, one of the good things technology has done is allowed guys to use the Internet and sell their own product. I think this is inevitable.”

A certain amount of faith accompanies that claim, given that Mr. Rollins does not own a computer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 21, 2006 11:08 AM

Great story, although bittersweet... and a great musician, I encourage all to take a listen...

Posted by: Darryl at October 22, 2006 12:45 AM