Monday, May 30, 2011

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (may 29 - june 4): Poncho Sanchez

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (may 29 - june 4): Poncho Sanchez

If music were about pictures, percussionist Poncho Sanchez's music would best be described as a kaleidoscopic swirl of some of the hottest colors and brightest lights to emerge from either side of the border. At any given show, on any given record, fragments of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and other infectious grooves collide and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling.

All of these sounds and more come together in Psychedelic Blues, Sanchez's twenty-fourth recording on Concord Records. "The last couple records have gone a little heavy on the soul music, which has gone over really well in our live shows, but we wanted to do more of a straightahead Latin jazz record this time - something in the tradition of our earlier Concord records that we made back in the '80s."

With that strategy in mind, Sanchez enlisted guitarist Andrew Synowiec to change up the sound on a few tracks. Synowiec, a regular member of the L.A.-based Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, landed the gig about five minutes into his audition. "He came through the door with just a guitar and an amplifier," says Sanchez. "No effects pedals or other gadgets. He plugged and started to play, and I said, 'No more auditions. We're using this guy.'"

Along with Synowiec is the same lineup that has backed Sanchez on several records and countless live shows: keyboardist/arranger David Torres; saxophonist Jav�er Vergara; trumpeter/flugelhornist Ron Blake; trombonist/arranger Francisco Torres; bassist/vocalist Tony Banda; timbalero George Ortiz; and percussionist/vocalist Joey De Le�n. Even a couple alumni from earlier configurations of Sanchez's band - baritone saxophonist Scott Martin and percussionist Alfredo Ortiz - step back in to lend a hand on Psychedelic Blues. A few of these seasoned players go back more than 30 years with Sanchez, back to some of his earliest gigs as a local fixture in the Los Angeles club circuit.

Although born in Laredo, Texas, in 1951 to a large Mexican-American family, Sanchez grew up in a suburb of L.A., where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included straightahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul. By his teen years, his musical consciousness had been solidified by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Along the way, he taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums and timbales, but eventually settled on the congas.

At 24, after working his way around the local club scene for several years, he landed a permanent spot in Cal Tjader's band in 1975. "I learned a great deal from Cal," says Sanchez, "but it wasn't as though he sat me down and taught me lessons like a schoolteacher. Mostly it was just a matter of being around such a great guy. It was the way he conducted himself, the way he talked to people, the way he presented himself onstage. He was very elegant, very dignified, and when he played, he played beautifully. The touch that he had on the vibes - nobody has that sound. To me, he was - and is, and always will be - the world's greatest vibe player."

Sanchez remained with Tjader until the bandleader's death in 1982. That same year, he signed with Concord for the release of Sonando!, an album that marked the beginning of a prolific musical partnership that has spanned more than 25 years and has yielded two dozen recordings.

Psychedelic Blues, the latest product of that partnership, opens with the simmering "Cantaloupe Island," a Herbie Hancock composition recast in a Latin jazz groove. A number of soloists step forward here, most notably Torres on trombone and Synowiec on guitar - all weaving effortlessly above a firmly anchored rhythm section.

Premier Latin trumpeter Arturo Sandoval - Sanchez's friend since their first gig together at a festival in Sardinia, Italy, some twenty years ago - makes a guest appearance via a rendition of Freddie Hubbard's "Crisis." The track showcases Sandoval's respect and reverence for the American bebop maestro who had passed away just a few months before the Psychedelic Blues sessions.

The title track is a fast-moving mambo, originally written by Sonny Henry and arranged here by Francisco Torres, who attaches a surprise at the end of the track. "Francisco really souped it up," says Sanchez. "The song has some nice horn lines, and some great jazz riffs, and then it ends in a bolero. So the song burns almost all the way through, and then at the end it shifts into a ballad."

The intriguing centerpiece to the album is a Willie Bobo medley featuring "I Don't Know" (a Sonny Henry piece commonly associated with Bobo), the laid back "Fried Neckbones and Some Homefries" and the slightly more urgent "Spanish Grease." All three of these songs merge effortlessly to create a nostalgic nod to the revered Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist of the '60s and '70.

Further into the set, Sanchez and the band turn "Silver's Serenade" - originally a swing tune by Horace Silver - into a mambo with personality to burn, thanks in large part to solo work by Francisco Torres. When Poncho himself steps forward to deliver some syncopated conga lines, the net result is an infectious groove.

The salsa-flavored closer, "Con Sabor Latino," is an old song by Rene Touzet, a native of Cuba who became a well known Latin bandleader in Los Angeles in the '50s and '60s. In many ways, the song is Sanchez's tribute to some of the musical memories of his childhood. "My older brothers and sisters used to see Touzet play at the Hollywood Paladium," he says. "Back then, Chico Sesma was the only Latin disc jockey on the radio in southern California, and 'Con Sabor Latino' was his theme song."

Whether it's salsa, straightahead jazz, Latin jazz, or even elements of soul and blues, the mesmerizing array of sounds and colors from Poncho Sanchez's youth have telegraphed across the decades and continue to inform his creative sensibilities to this day. "There's room for a lot of different sounds in our music," he says. "I think people have come to know that that's what Poncho Sanchez is all about. We put it all together in a pot, boil it together and come out with a big stew. This isn't some marketing strategy to sell records. These are the sounds I grew up with. So when I play this music, I'm not telling a lie. I'm telling my story. This is the real thing."

This biography is property of Concord Music Group, Inc.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (May 22-28): Magos Herrera

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (May 22-28): Magos Herrera

The Mexican-born Herrera sings in Spanish, English and Portuguese. But really, what she does on Distancia transcends language. Blending elements from various traditions, she's stretching the very notion of jazz singing, pushing past the diva pleasantries into a sound that's bold, thrilling and effortlessly global. Tom Moon for NPR radio 06/09

…“Herrera creates a thoroughly modern expression of jazz performance and Latin culture on Distancia, easily holding the weight of an intelligent and complex sound with her prodigious musicianship.” The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz herrera/

…“Though jazz long ago embraced Afro-Cuban influences that ought to make Mexico a logical bastion of the music, there are few well-known players from Mexico. But here is a brilliant singer, Magos Herrera, with a US debut on Sunnyside Records, recording with a top-flight band (Aaron Goldberg’s piano, Lionel Louke on guitar, among others) and making Mexican jazz sound as obvious as chocolate ice cream.” Will Layman for popmatters, 06/09

…5.0 out of 5 stars Magos Herrera lovely, intriguing jazz vocal artistry, “Magos Herrera is a fascinating, multi-talented singer and this is one of 2009's best vocal performances. My Highest Recommendation. Five INTERNATIONAL Stars!RBS Prod” May,2009

…”Magos music is limitless and speaks straight to one’s emotional self, her music is really bringing such a fresh and powerful coloration to the palette we call Jazz”.
Dan Purcea .Audience in Montreal Jazz Fest. June 2009


Born in Mexico City, the deep and captivating performer, Magos Herrera is considered one of the most beautiful voices and the most active vocalist of the contemporary Latin American jazz scene.

The grammy nominee for best vocal jazz, Immensely popular throughout Mexico and Latin America, a dazzling accomplished singer-songwriter known for her beguiling rhythmic scatting, inflected with soulful Latin-Andalusian phrasings, Magos Herrera owns a unique signature that elegantly blends her classic jazz styling with Latin-American melodies. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English, her repertoire is filled with the yearning romance, intimacy and enchantment of Mexican and Cuban sones and boleros, and sultry, languid Brazilian beats.

Her career started in Italy in 1988 where she decided to become professionally involved with music, and then graduated from the "Musicians Institute" in Los Angeles, Cal. For over 12 years Magos has performed in International Performing Arts Centers and Festivals such as Montreal International Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center in Washington, Lincoln Center, and Jazz Standard in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, NYC, Teatro de la Ciudad de Mexico, Lunario del Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City and Sala Galileo Galilei in Madrid, Barcelona international Jazz Festival, among many others.

Magos has been nominated twice for ”Lunas del Auditorio Nacional” (2006-2009) in Mexico as “the best Jazz concert of the year” among Bobby Mcferrin and Bill Frisell. Through her pro-active love for music, she produced and hosted 2 TV shows that promoted music for Mexico’s TV channel 22 (Acustico and Jazz desde el bajo centro), and featured guest stars like, Jerry Gonzalez, Diego el Cigala, Francisco Cespedes, among many others,(TV shows demo available at

She has 6 CD recordings including “ Cajuina”, “Orquideas Susurrantes,” “Pais Maravilla”, “Todo Puede Inspirar”, ”Soliluna” and” Dsitancia” and 2 international compilations for Brazil and Japan and was part of the acclaimed “Mexican Divas” cd series .

Based in New York since fall 2007, Magos Herrera promptly became part of the local scene since her successful concert at New York Winter Jazz Festival in 2008. Has recorded with saxophonist Tim Ries for “The Rolling Stones World Project II” and for Via Project (for contemporary composer Paola Prestini). In spring 2009, acclaimed by the critics, Magos released her sixth CD production ” Distancia”/ Sunnyside, recorded with a top-flight new york band including lionel loueke and Aaron Goldberg, which became the #1 Itunes in Jazz category and was nominated for the Grammys as best vocal jazz album, and was included in the 1000 cds yu have to hera before you die.

A year after this succesfull release Magos presents “Mexico Azul” /Sony music a celebration of one of most prolific times for music in Mexico, “the cinema golden era” and the XEW radio sharing a contemporary vision of pieces like “Noche Criolla” by Agustin Lara , “Angelitos Negros”, once sang by the unforgettable "Pedro infante” and “Seguire mi viaje” by Alvaro carrillo, among others, supported by a prime New York band including John Patitucci, Adam Rogers, Luis Perdomo, Alex Kautz and Rogelio bocatto, Rogelio Boccatto and produced by Tim Ries.


Graduated from MIT as professional vocalists in 1993 to further her studies privately with Sheila Jordan in NYC and in Mannes conservatory.
From 1995-1999 trained with opera coach Konstantin Jadan .
In 1999 moved to Boston taking classes of vocal technique and jazz harmony at New England conservatory.
From 2004 to 2006 studied jazz composition with Alejandro Mercado (ex berklee student) in Mexico City.

Since 2000 Magos teaches vocal technique, vocal improvisation, Jazz, brazilian and latin repertoir privately and in music schools such as Fermatta (Berklee associated school in Mexico City), DIM music school in Mexico City.
Has been also invited to teach master classes and clinics at Berklee College in Boston, Central College in Pella, Iowa and Miami Dade College.

Over the past 4 years, through her pro-active love for music, Magos produced and hosted two TV shows that promoted music for Mexico’s TV, channel 22: “Acustico” and “Jazz desde el Bajo Centro” and fea- tured guest stars like Ute Lemper, Jerry González, Diego el Cigala, Francisco Céspedes, among many others.

Magos performed in the play “Modelo para armar” by director; Pablo Mandoki. “Centro Cultural Universitario” Mexico City / 2005

• Mexico Azul / Mexican Bicenenary celebration/ SONY Music/ 2010
• Distancia / Sunnyside records / 2009
• Soliluna / JM / 2006
• Todo puede inspirar / EMI Music/ 2005
• País Maravilla / Suave Records / 2003
• Orquídeas Susurrantes / JM / 2000
• Cajuina / Indie / 1999
• Mexican Divas II / Opción Sónica / 2001
• Mexican Divas III / Opción Sonica / 2002
• Magos Herrera Compilation / Mecca Japon / 2004
• Minha Historia compilation / Casser Brasil / 2007


• Viaje de mar / Iraida Noriega / JM / 2005
• The Rollings Stones Project II / Tim Ries / Sunnyside / 2008
• Traveling songs / VIA Project / 2008
• Far from home/ Beat Kaestli / 2009


Magos Herrera is a recipient of Mexico' National Grant Program for
performing Artist 2010-2013 given by National Fund for Culture and the
Arts (FONCA).
She has been nominated twice 2006-2009 as the “best jazz performance” by the “Lunas del Auditorio Nacional” in Mexico City along with Bill Frisell y Bobby MacFerrin.


• Dizzies Jazz Club CocaCola, NYC

• Kala Auditorium/ Delhi , India

• Kamani Auditorium/ Delhi , India
• Montreal Jazz Festival / 2009
• Barcelona Jazz Festival// Lus de Gas/2009
• Winter Jazz Festival / New York / 2008
• Shanghai International Arts Festival / 2008
• Millenium Park / Chicago / 2007
• Sor Juana Festival / Miller Outdoor TheatreHouston / 2007
• Jazz Standard / New York / 2008-09
• Joes Pub / New York/ 2008-2009
• Lunario del Auditorio Nacional / Mexico City / 2004-05-06-07-08
• Teatro de la Ciudad de México / 2003/05/07/09
• Zocalo, Mexico City, FCH / 2005
• Espacio Santander / Porto Alegre, Brazil / 2007
• SESC / Sao Paulo, Brazil / 2005, 2007
• Museo Tamayo / 2006, 2007
• Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico / 2005/06/07
• Snugs Harbour Jazz Club / New Orleans / 2005
• Sky Building / Osaka Japan / 2004.
• Dazzles Jazz Club / Denver Colorado / 2004
• Sala Galileo Galilei / Madrid, Spain / 2003
• Anson Amphitheatre / LA, Cal / 2003
• Mexican Festival in New Delhi / India / 2003
• Lincoln Center / New York City / 2002
• Mayan Amphitheatre / LA, Cal / 2002
• Queens Festival / New York / 2002
• Makor/NYC/2002
• Ryles Jazz Club / Boston, Mass / 2001, 2002
• FNAC Callao / Madrid, Spain / 2003
• Suristan / Madrid, Spain / 2003
• Berklee College of Music / 2002
• Festival Cervantino / Guanajuato, Mexico / 2001
• Centro Nacional de las Artes / Mexico / 2001-02-04-06-09
• Among many other hundreds of festivals and venues in Mexico and abroad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (May 8 -14): Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (May 8 -14): Gonzalo Rubalcaba

May 27, 1963… Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca was born in post-revolutionary Havana into a musical family rich in the traditions of the country's artistic past. During his childhood, in addition to the standard fare of elementary schools, Gonzalo absorbed the Cuban musical heritage of his nascent environment through personal contacts within his family, notably his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba and his two brothers (pianist and bassist) as well as from leading musicians who were frequent houseguests: Frank Emilio, Peruchin, Felipe Dulzaides and others. He also assimilated, through scarce and treasured recordings, the tunes and styles of 40's - 70's US jazz masters: Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson among pianists; and instrumentalists Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. Gonzalo loved drumming and early in his career studied both piano and drums. Despite the diversity of his background, Gonzalo’s initial formal musical training was entirely classical. He began his training at Manuel Saumell Conservatory at age 9, where he finally chose the piano as his main instrument. He moved up to middle- school at Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and finally earned his degree in music composition from Havana's Institute of Fine Arts in 1983.

By that time he was already playing in clubs and music halls in Havana. He toured France and Africa with Orquesta Aragon in 1980 and introduced his own Grupo Projecto to the North Sea and Berlin Festivals in 1985. Egrem Studios of Havana was the first to record his music during the early and mid '80's and these discs, Inicio, an album of piano solos and Concierto Negro, are still available. Beginning in 1986 Gonzalo began recording for Messidor of Frankfurt, Germany and put out three highly acclaimed albums for that label with his Cuban Quartet entitled Mi Gran Pasion, Live in Havana, and Giraldilla. On the strength of these works Gonzalo began attracting international attention and in 1986 a chance meeting in Havana with bassist Charlie Haden brought him to the attention of Blue Note Records'

president, Bruce Lundvall, and thus began an association first with Toshiba/EMI of Japan and later with Blue Note in the US which resulted in 14 discs being released. (See the Discography page for a complete listing.) In July 1990, he appeared as a surprise guest in an historic performance, available on the CD Discovery with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian (ex Bill Evans trio members) at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland.

Further works eventually brought Gonzalo both a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, Supernova, as well as a Grammy for co-production with Charlie Haden on Nocturne, a Verve release of Cuban and Mexican boleros and ballads. Gonzalo has to his credit 15 Grammy nominations, including five for Jazz Album of the Year, Rapsodia in 1995, Antiguo and Inner Voyage in 1999, Supernova in 2002, Avatar in 2008. Among recent honors, in June 2001 Gonzalo received the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle Laureate Award and in 2002 he performed as Artist-in-Residence at the Montreal Jazz
Festival together with Chucho Valdez.

Gonzalo has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ignacio Berroa, Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, Katia Labeque, Richard Galliano, Francisco Cepsedes, Tony Martinez, Issac Delgado, Juan Luis Guerra, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Eric Harland, Dennis Chambers, Brian Bromberg, Ron Carter, Yosvany Terry, Matt Brewer, Mike Rodriguez, Marcus Gilmore, Pat Martino, Giovanni Hidalgo, John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette , Joao Bosco, Eric Harland , Ivan Linz and many others.

Gonzalo continues to tour the world as a solo pianist in jazz and classical settings as well as band leader, employing the worlds top side men in club and concert engagements. His active repertoire has continued to expand beyond straight-ahead, bop, Afro-Cuban and other forms of jazz into the worlds of traditional Cuban and Mexican ballads, boleros and Cuban classical works. He has developed his own very distinctive voice, challenging the traditional musical classifications of the day. His art continues to evolve and draw inspiration

from both his Afro-Cuban heritage and the world around us. Our Maestro will continue shaping and reshaping the themes, forms and rhythms which have provided him with inspiration for his life's work. In whichever idiom he works, his future musical creations will be melodious, rhythmic, exciting and bear in their intriguing intricacies the artist's inherent intention of transforming the daily routines of our lives into something more beautiful and significant. Gonzalo now produces and records for his own record label and production company, 5Passion LLC, founded in 2010. Gonzalo's first offering under his independent label "Fé" is now available. Gonzalo is presently planning to record a fresh trio album to be released sometime in December of 2011.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (may 1 - 7): Sonny Rollins

Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (may 1 - 7): Sonny Rollins

Theodore Walter Rollins was born on September 7, 1930 in New York City. He grew up in Harlem not far from the Savoy Ballroom, the Apollo Theatre, and the doorstep of his idol, Coleman Hawkins. After early discovery of Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, he started out on alto saxophone, inspired by Louis Jordan. At the age of sixteen, he switched to tenor, trying to emulate Hawkins. He also fell under the spell of the musical revolution that surrounded him, Bebop.

He began to follow Charlie Parker, and soon came under the wing of Thelonious Monk, who became his musical mentor and guru. Living in Sugar Hill, his neighborhood musical peers included Jackie McLean, Kenny Drew and Art Taylor, but it was young Sonny who was first out of the pack, working and recording with Babs Gonzales, J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell and Miles Davis before he turned twenty.

"Of course, these people are there to be called on because I think I represent them in a way," Rollins said recently of his peers and mentors. "They're not here now so I feel like I'm sort of representing all of them, all of the guys. Remember, I'm one of the last guys left, as I'm constantly being told, so I feel a holy obligation sometimes to evoke these people."

In the early fifties, he established a reputation first among musicians, then the public, as the most brash and creative young tenor on the scene, through his work with Miles, Monk, and the MJQ.

Miles Davis was an early Sonny Rollins fan and in his autobiography wrote that he "began to hang out with Sonny Rollins and his Sugar Hill Harlem crowd...anyway, Sonny had a big reputation among a lot of the younger musicians in Harlem. People loved Sonny Rollins up in Harlem and everywhere else. He was a legend, almost a god to a lot of the younger musicians. Some thought he was playing the saxophone on the level of Bird. I know one thing--he was close. He was an aggressive, innovative player who always had fresh musical ideas. I loved him back then as a player and he could also write his ass off..."

With Clifford Brown and Max Roach, 1956 Sonny moved to Chicago for a few years to remove himself from the surrounding elements of negativity around the Jazz scene. He reemerged at the end of 1955 as a member of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, with an even more authoritative presence. His trademarks became a caustic, often humorous style of melodic invention, a command of everything from the most arcane ballads to calypsos, and an overriding logic in his playing that found him hailed for models of thematic improvisation.

It was during this time that Sonny acquired a nickname,"Newk." As Miles Davis explains in his autobiography: "Sonny had just got back from playing a gig out in Chicago. He knew Bird, and Bird really liked Sonny, or "Newk" as we called him, because he looked like the Brooklyn Dodgers' pitcher Don Newcombe. One day, me and Sonny were in a cab...when the white cabdriver turned around and looked at Sonny and said, `Damn, you're Don Newcombe!'' Man, the guy was totally excited. I was amazed, because I hadn't thought about it before. We just put that cabdriver on something terrible. Sonny started talking about what kind of pitches he was going to throw Stan Musial, the great hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals, that evening..."

In 1956, Sonny began recording the first of a series of landmark recordings issued under his own name: Valse Hot introduced the practice, now common, of playing bop in 3/4 meter; St. Thomas initiated his explorations of calypso patterns; and Blue 7 was hailed by Gunther Schuller as demonstrating a new manner of "thematic improvisation," in which the soloist develops motifs extracted from his theme. Way Out West (1957), Rollins's first album using a trio of saxophone, double bass, and drums, offered a solution to his longstanding difficulties with incompatible pianists, and exemplified his witty ability to improvise on hackneyed material (Wagon Wheels, I'm an Old Cowhand). It Could Happen to You (also 1957) was the first in a long series of unaccompanied solo recordings, and The Freedom Suite (1958) foreshadowed the political stances taken in jazz in the 1960s. During the years 1956 to 1958 Rollins was widely regarded as the most talented and innovative tenor saxophonist in jazz.

Rollins's first examples of the unaccompanied solo playing that would become a specialty also appeared in this period; yet the perpetually dissatisfied saxophonist questioned the acclaim his music was attracting, and between 1959 and late `61 withdrew from public performance.

Sonny remembers that he took his leave of absence from the scene because "I was getting very famous at the time and I felt I needed to brush up on various aspects of my craft. I felt I was getting too much, too soon, so I said, wait a minute, I'm going to do it my way. I wasn't going to let people push me out there, so I could fall down. I wanted to get myself together, on my own. I used to practice on the Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge because I was living on the Lower East Side at the time."

When he returned to action in early `62, his first recording was appropriately titled The Bridge. By the mid 60's, his live sets became grand, marathon stream-of-consciousness solos where he would call forth melodies from his encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs, including startling segues and sometimes barely visiting one theme before surging into dazzling variations upon the next. Rollins was brilliant, yet restless. The period between 1962 and `66 saw him returning to action and striking productive relationships with Jim Hall, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, and his idol Hawkins, yet he grew dissatisfied with the music business once again and started yet another sabbatical in `66. "I was getting into eastern religions," he remembers. "I've always been my own man. I've always done, tried to do, what I wanted to do for myself. So these are things I wanted to do. I wanted to go on the Bridge. I wanted to get into religion. But also, the Jazz music business is always bad. It's never good. So that led me to stop playing in public for a while, again. During the second sabbatical, I worked in Japan a little bit, and went to India after that and spent a lot of time in a monastery. I resurfaced in the early 70s, and made my first record in `72. I took some time off to get myself together and I think it's a good thing for anybody to do."

Lucille and Sonny In 1972, with the encouragement and support of his wife Lucille, who had become his business manager, Rollins returned to performing and recording, signing with Milestone and releasing Next Album. (Working at first with Orrin Keepnews, Sonny was by the early ’80s producing his own Milestone sessions with Lucille.) His lengthy association with the Berkeley-based label produced two dozen albums in various settings – from his working groups to all-star ensembles (Tommy Flanagan, Jack DeJohnette, Stanley Clarke, Tony Williams); from a solo recital to tour recordings with the Milestone Jazzstars (Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner); in the studio and on the concert stage (Montreux, San Francisco, New York, Boston). Sonny was also the subject of a mid-’80s documentary by Robert Mugge entitled Saxophone Colossus; part of its soundtrack is available as G-Man.

He won his first performance Grammy for This Is What I Do (2000), and his second for 2004’s Without a Song (The 9/11 Concert), in the Best Jazz Instrumental Solo category (for “Why Was I Born”). In addition, Sonny received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2004.

In June 2006 Rollins was inducted into the Academy of Achievement – and gave a solo performance – at the International Achievement Summit in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and attended by world leaders as well as distinguished figures in the arts and sciences.

Rollins was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class, in November 2009. The award is one of Austria’s highest honors, given to leading international figures for distinguished achievements. The only other American artists who have received this recognition are Frank Sinatra and Jessye Norman.

In 2010 on the eve of his 80th birthday, Sonny Rollins is one of 229 leaders in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, business, and public affairs who have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A center for independent policy research, the Academy is among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and celebrates the 230th anniversary of its founding this year.

In August 2010, Rollins was named the Edward MacDowell Medalist, the first jazz composer to be so honored. The Medal has been awarded annually since 1960 to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to his or her field.

Photo: Ruth David Yet another major award was bestowed on Rollins on March 2, 2011, when he received the Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony. Rollins accepted the award, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence, “on behalf of the gods of our music.”

Since 2006, Rollins has been releasing his music on his own label, Doxy Records (with distribution from the Decca Label Group). The first Doxy album was Sonny, Please, Rollins’s first studio recording since This Is What I Do. That was followed by the acclaimed Road Shows, vol. 1 (2008), the first in a planned series of recordings from Rollins’s audio archives.

Rollins will release Road Shows, vol. 2 in the fall of 2011. In addition to material recorded in Sapporo and Tokyo, Japan during an October 2010 tour, the new CD will contain several tracks from Sonny’s September 2010 80th birthday concert in New York—including the historic and electrifying encounter with Ornette Coleman.