Theodore Walter "Sonny" Rollins (born September 7, 1930 in New York City) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Sonny Rollins has had a long, productive career in jazz, beginning his career at the age of 11 and playing with piano legend Thelonious Monk before reaching the age of 20. Rollins is still touring and recording today, having outlived several of his jazz contemporaries such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Art Blakey, all performers with whom he has recorded.

Early Days
Rollins started as a pianist, then changed to alto saxophone, finally switching to tenor in 1946. He was first recorded in 1949 with Babs Gonzalez; in the same year he recorded with J. J. Johnson and Bud Powell. In 1950, Rollins was arrested for armed robbery, given a sentence of three years, spending 10 months in Rikers Island before he was released on parole. He was rearrested in 1952 for violating the terms of his parole by using heroin. Rollins however, attended an institution in Lexington for drug addicts, which administered dolophine, allowing him to kick his habit entirely. Rollins had begun to make a name for himself as he recorded with Miles Davis in 1951 and Thelonious Monk in 1953.

Rollins joined the Clifford Brown–Max Roach quintet in 1955, and after Brown's death in 1956 worked mainly as a leader.

Rollins' most widely acclaimed album Saxophone Colossus was recorded on June 22, 1956, featuring Tommy Flanagan on piano, former Jazz Messengers bassist Doug Watkins and his favorite drummer Max Roach. This was only Rollins' third outing as a leader in the recording studio, but it was a date on which he recorded perhaps his best-known composition "St. Thomas", a Caribbean calypso-based on a tune sung to him by his mother in his childhood: "St. Thomas is a song my mother used to sing, it is a traditional tune."

Coltrane had not yet become a major figure and Rollins was the leading modern jazz saxophonist in America.

In 1957 he also pioneered the use of just bass and drums as accompaniment for his saxophone solos, a texture that came to be known as "strolling"; two early recordings in this format are Way Out West (Contemporary, 1957) and A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957). Throughout his career, Rollins used the technique, even backing bass and drum solos with sax licks (and bass for the drummer or drums for the bass player).

By this time, Rollins had become well-known for taking relatively banal or unconventional material (such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" on Work Time, "I'm an Old Cowhand" on Way Out West, and later "Sweet Leilani" on This Is What I Do) and turning it into a vehicle for improvisation. He is quite well-known as a composer; a number of his tunes (including "St. Thomas", "Doxy", "Oleo" and "Airegin") have become standards.

In 1958 Rollins recorded an extended piece for saxophone, bass and drums: The Freedom Suite. His original sleeve notes made it explicit that the piece was an intervention on the socio-political situation:

"How ironic that the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America's culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed; that the Negro, who has exemplified the humanities in his very existence, is being rewarded with inhumanity." [1]
The LP was only briefly available in its original form, before the record company repackaged it as Shadow Waltz, the title of another piece on the record.

First Sabbatical
By 1959 however, Rollins was frustrated with what he perceived as his own musical limitations and took the first – and most famous – of his musical sabbaticals. To spare a neighboring expectant mother the sound of his practice routine, Rollins ventured to the Williamsburg Bridge to practice. Upon his return to the jazz scene he named his "comeback" album The Bridge at the start of a contract with RCA Records.

Throughout the '60s Rollins remained one of the most adventurous musicians around. Each album he recorded differed radically from the previous one. Rollins explored Latin rhythms on What's New, tackled the avant-garde on Our Man in Jazz, and re-examined standards on Now's the Time. He also provided the soundtrack to the 1966 version of Alfie. His 1965 residency at legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott's has recently emerged on CD as Live in London, a series of releases from the Harkit label; they offer a very different picture of his playing from the studio albums of the period.

Second Sabbatical
Frustrated once again, Rollins took his last (so far) sabbatical to study yoga, meditation, and Eastern philosophies. When he returned in 1972, it was clear that he had become enamored with R&B, pop, and funk rhythms. His bands throughout the '70s and '80s featured electric guitar, electric bass, and usually more pop- or funk-oriented drummers. It was during this period that Rollins' notoriety for unaccompanied saxophone solos came to the forefront. In 1985 he released his Solo Album, though many Rollins fans consider it something of a disappointment compared to his best solo work.

Rollins' most famous appearance to rock music fans was his appearance on the 1981 Rolling Stones album Tattoo You in which he plays saxophone on "Slave" and "Waiting on a Friend" and possibly "Neighbours".

Into the 21st century
Although his recordings in the '70s, '80s, and '90s were not as critically acclaimed as his earlier recordings, he continues to be known for his powerful live performances. Critics such as Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch have noted the disparity between Sonny Rollins the recording artist, and Sonny Rollins the concert artist. In a May 2005 New Yorker profile, Crouch wrote of Rollins the concert artist:

"Over and over, decade after decade, from the late seventies through the eighties and nineties, there he is, Sonny Rollins, the saxophone colossus, playing somewhere in the world, some afternoon or some eight o'clock somewhere, pursuing the combination of emotion, memory, thought, and aesthetic design with a command that allows him to achieve spontaneous grandiloquence. With its brass body, its pearl-button keys, its mouthpiece, and its cane reed, the horn becomes the vessel for the epic of Rollins' talent and the undimmed power and lore of his jazz ancestors."
On September 11, 2001, Rollins, who lived several blocks away, heard the World Trade Center collapse, and was forced to evacuate his apartment, with only his saxophone in hand. Although he was shaken, he travelled to Boston five days later, to play at Berklee College. That concert was released on CD in 2005,'Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert.

Rollins was presented with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2004.

After a highly successful Japanese tour in late 2005, Rollins returned to the recording studio for the first time in five years to record, "Sonny, Please." At the same time, he launched his own website, and started his own label, Doxy Records.

The city of Minneapolis, MN officially named Tuesday October 31st, 2006 after him in honor of his achievements and contributions to the world of Jazz.

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Spotlight | Maze

The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 

As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.


The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)

Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::


  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪



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