PLEDGE NOW
Sonny Rollins on Race and Jazz's Future

(photo: sonnyrollins.com)

Jazz legend Sonny Rollins joined us on Wednesday to reflect on his storied career and give us his thoughts on the future of music and a whole lot more. To celebrate his 80th birthday, the hugely influential tenor saxophonist — one of the last jazz immortals, who played with fellow greats like Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, and John Coltrane — is embarking on yet another national tour.

Among many other things, Rollins talked about race and jazz.  One listener asked him about the predominantly white audiences for contemporary jazz, and what it means that younger generations of African Americans have flocked to newer forms of expression such as hip-hop. Here’s what he had to say:

SONNY ROLLINS: This is a huge, huge country, and I think America is an experiment. So, there’s still factions. You know, I remember a lot of the jazz clubs we used to play, and eventually we had more white people coming in. And then some of the black people left because they were more white people appreciating it. I mean there are all of these little subtexts going on…It’s silly reasons like that which, you know, harm the general culture, in that everything shouldn’t be appreciated. I think that hip-hop, all of this stuff, is under the jazz umbrella. I think it’s all jazz. I think jazz is just a music force. You know, the real sense of what jazz is really the freedom, yet the sense of right and wrong. Jazz is what America is in a sense…

TOM ASHBROOK: But I wonder: Do you think there is going to be the kind of musicianship out there in the country, that you grew up in the midst of, around jazz that would be familiar to your peers in that hey-day? Is that going to be there, or is it just going to just be in the archives, just in the old recordings? And doesn’t it matter, Sonny?

SONNY ROLLINS: Well, I grew up in a time that was really a golden age. I don’t know if you’ve seen that jazz photograph, that famous jazz photograph, by Art Kane that had all of these different generations of jazz people.

TOM ASHBROOK: And everyone’s there in Harlem, all at once. It’s kind of – you can’t believe it’s true.

SONNY ROLLINS: I know, I know. But it shows that there was a point when there was everybody…it was kind of a golden age. You could hear Willie “The Lion” Smith, you could hear Ornette Coleman, you could hear everybody. Everybody was sort of playing and creating at the same time. But now I believe the future is bright. And music is so unlimited that we never know how these things are going to come about. But they will come about in some unexpected way.

Listen to the full hour with Sonny Rollins. You can also hear some other On Point jazz-related segments from our archives, on both the new and the old. We did a relatively recent show on the legendary pianist Thelonious Monk. And earlier last year, we looked at a new generation of jazz musicians.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Feb 12, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reacts to the cheering crowd at his primary night rally Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Trump and Sanders take New Hampshire. Ferguson under fire from the Justice Department. A rocky week on Wall Street. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Feb 12, 2016
Overcast sky surrounds a man as he rests beneath the art sculpture 'Cupid’s Span' Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 at Rincon Park in San Francisco. The Bay area has endured unsettled, rainy weather for a week. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Love in the digital age. Romance, sex and expectations in a time of Tinder, Bumble and OKCupid.

RECENT
SHOWS
Feb 11, 2016
A sampling of same of the great books author David Denby thinks could help encourage young readers to love books. (National Post)

David Denby on the 24 great books that can bring even today’s kids to reading. And maybe you, too.

 
Feb 11, 2016
In this Oct. 21, 2013, file photo, Vern Lund, president of Liberty Mine in central Mississippi near DeKalb, Miss., holds some of the lignite coal planned for use in the nearby Mississippi Power Co. carbon capture power plant. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The Supreme Court hits the brakes on the heart of President Obama’s push to fight global warming. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: February 12, 2016
Friday, Feb 12, 2016

Newsletters, disinterested diner women and a place for your feedback. The Internet is vast, friends.

More »
Comment
 
Tom Ashbrook Tries Tinder
Friday, Feb 12, 2016

Host Tom Ashbrook tries Tinder! (For the sake of radio research, of course)

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #9: Remedy Or Replica?
Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016

Jack Beatty offers one last note from New Hampshire, and looks beyond to the primary races yet to come in both parties.

More »
Comment