Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins has probably played his last gig.
Diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis (a debilitating disease that creates scar tissue on the lungs) is making it difficult for him to breath. In a recent interview, this 87 year old jazz giant spoke about his career, and finding meaning in his work.
Rollins life has been full of hills and valleys. He took on the jazz and bop world with a fresh sound that changed like the seasons, and he liked it that way. He was never satisfied with how he played, and was always transforming and reaching for something new. Rollins has always taken giant steps to climb the next hill. His was well know for taking periods of time off throughout his career. One of these self imposed sabbaticals lasted several years. Everyday he would go from his home in Manhattan to the Williamsburg Bridge to practice. Surrounding himself with the rhythm of passing cars and the sounds of the East River, Rollins grew and discovered the limitless boundaries of his music.
When he was asked if preforming had given him joy over the years his response was:
“I’m thrilled when somebody tells me that listening to my music gives them some solace or peace, but I played music for myself, too. I was getting something out of it. So I don’t consider my musical gifts as any kind of servitude. It wasn’t giving of myself, because I got too much out of it. I had to play music. I had to. It’s something I wanted to do when I was a child. That’s like a gift to me. It’s not me giving. Do you understand what I mean?”
It’s the age old question- is art for the artist or is art for the masses. I guess it’s a little of both. When you have a burning desire to create, whether it’s music, writing, or any of the thousand things we do to feed our heart and mind; first and foremost you do it for your satisfaction.
From 1962, here’s a link to his rendition of “You Do Something To Me.”
That’s Sonny Rollins. A philosopher, an artist, and a special soul in the jazz world. His legacy is immense, and his talent and style lay open to all like special auditory textbook of jazz.