It’s hard to think of another living musician who can claim as great an influence over their chosen form of music than Sonny Rollins can. He played on Bud Powell‘s first recordings for Blue Note. That’s him playing a pivotal sideman role on Thelonious Monk‘s Brilliant Corners album, too. And Rollins also mixed it up with the likes of John Coltrane, on the title track of the album Tenor Madness. At age 83 he’s still at it, releasing this month the third volume in his Road Shows series. And when he cuts loose on an extended riff — as on the brand-new “Solo Sonny” — you can hear his mastery operating at full force.
To celebrate this magisterial career, we’re giving you a four-hour mix that touches on everything from “Bouncing with Bud” to Sonny’s late-career highlights, including the 2011 take on “Sonnymoon for Two,” which includes Rollins’ first recorded encounter with fellow saxophone heavyweightOrnette Coleman. In between, you’ll find cuts from classic albums like A Night at the Village Vanguard and The Bridge. Whether he’s covering show tunes with a striking and inventive feel for the melody, writing his own songs, or making his voice felt in forms ranging from bebop to fusion, Sonny Rollins is a global treasure. Click play and clock how long it takes you to smile. — Seth Colter Walls