April 25, 2020

Thinking About Jazz   1-3pm

(free event: light lunch served,

door prizes, great discussion)

Sonny Rollins:

Saxophone Collossus

Presented by

Rusty Hassan

Born Walter Theodore “Sonny” Rollins (9/7/1930) in New York, he grew up in central Harlem (Sugar Hill) the youngest of three siblings.  He had his first alto sax by age 7, finally switched to tenor at 16.  During high school he played in a band with other future jazz legends Jackie McClain, Kenny Drew and Art Taylor.  After graduating high school in 1947 he became a professional musician.  First recordings came in 1949.  Playing with Bud Powell, Fats Navarro and Roy Haynes he began to make a name for himself.  His breakthrough came in 1954 when he recorded some of his best compositions with a quintet led by Miles Davis which also featured Horace Silver.  In 1955 he entered drug rehab and, using new methadone treatment, was able to kick a heroin habit.  Rollins feared his sobriety would hinder his musicianship but he went on to even greater success.  That summer he briefly joined Miles Davis Quintet then later in the year he joined Clifford Brown and Max Roach until the fatal car crash that killed Brown and Ritchie Powell in June 1956.  That year he recorded Saxophone Collossus and Tenor Madness, the title track of which is the only recording of him playing with Coltrane.  In 1957 he began using bass and drums in a trio format; he also became noted for taking common tunes an improvising off them.  He showed up for Art Kane’s famous 1958 photograph, A Great Day in Harlem; today only Benny Golson and Rollins survive.  The next year he did his first European tour.  Living in the Lower East Side he used to practice daily on the walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge, often for 16 hours.  In 2016, a movement launched to rename the bridge in his honor.  Through most of the 60’s he was prolific with recording and performing.  His first of many tours to Japan came in 1963.  In 1969, he took a two-year sabbatical that included several months at an ashram in India studying yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophies.  Rollins has won numerous awards including multiple Grammies and the 2010 National Medal of Arts.  He has not performed in public since 2012 due to respiratory issues.  In 2013, he moved to Woodstock, NY and has been the subject of much media attention in recent years.  Rusty Hassan, will deliver this fascinating presentation.


Other 2020 TAJ Events

February 29th
Benny Goodman:  King of Swing

April 25th
Sonny Rollins:  Saxophone Collossus

 June 27th
Hazel Scott:  From Cafe Society to HUAC

August 29th
Jazz on the Radio

October 31st
Butch Warren:  Balance on Bass

December 12th

The Big Sound of Dexter Gordon

Thinking About Jazz is a public service brought to you by Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation (SRDC)--a cultural ministry arm of Westminster DC. 

This free educational experience happens every other month from 1-3pm  on the 4th Saturday (except December).  Each one focuses on a different giant or genre of jazz and features vintage video footage and select audio recordings delivered by experts in the subject matter.

The material along with Q & A allows participants to go deeper into the history, stories and power of the art form and those who have created it.

Light refreshments are served and door prizes are given.

  • Rev. Brian Hamilton, President
  • Lloyd Jordan, Chair
  • Dick Smith, Jazz Night Program Director

Marilyn Abraham, James Besley, Yolanda R. Coleman, Vyllorya Evans, Gwen Fleming, Wilma Goldstein, Sue K. Gresham, Blanche Hamilton, Alicia Hetzner, Donald Roe, Tangela Roe, Brenda Wilder, Von Deleah Williams
The Thinking About Jazz Committee
holds a planning meeting the last Saturday of January, March, May, July, Sept, Nov, 10am to noon at Westminster.  You are invited to join this committee!  Check the calendar for the next meeting.  You will enjoy your welcome to the committee and the opportunity to be part of planning another great Thinking About Jazz event.



Building Rhythm Together for Christ's Love