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Sonny Rollins

Biography

Sonny Rollins just might possess the sharpest wit in all of jazz. He came of age musically in the early '50s, developing a style that combined the gruff-toned swing of Coleman Hawkins with the Bebop innovations of Charlie Parker. But while Parker's melodic flights tapped into an emotional core of expression, Rollins' endless permutations convey an ironic sensibility. On tunes such as the Broadway hit "There's No Business Like Show Business," he worked with cliches from Bop, Swing, and Show Tunes, turning them inside out, upside down, and backwards -- partly as a search for the limit of melodic and rhythmic possibility and partly as a joking commentary on the cliches themselves. In his search for new possibilities, his playing will sometimes express an aesthetic minimalism. On his own "St. Thomas" -- now a standard -- he works the same two notes back and forth through a dizzying labyrinth of phrasings. Few improvisers can match the depth of Rollins' craft.
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