Sonny Rollins on The Critics for the Jazz Journalists Association

Sonny Rollins on The Critics for the Jazz Journalists Association

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An audio interview with Sonny Rollins, who discusses his relationship with Critics, their role, and several of his favorites over the years, including Nat Hentoff and Leonard Feather. This interview was done by Bret Primack for the Jazz Journalists Association, who at their 2013 Award Ceremony, honored Sonny by naming him “Emeritus Jazz Artist: Beyond Voting.” For more on the JJA, please visit: and for info on the awards, please visit:

JJA President Howard Mandel writes: “Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus, stands monumentally atop the list of all-time JJA Jazz Awards winners. He won the “Best Instrumentalist” Award, in 1997, the first year the JJA Awards were presented. In 1998, he was voted both “Best Improviser” and “Best Tenor Sax.” The following year, he received the “Lifetime Achievement in Jazz” award, which can be bestowed on an individual only once. But Sonny wasn’t done achieving, far from it: He went on to receive the “Musician of the Year Award” in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and the Tenor Sax of the Year award again in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Then in 2012, he was once again chosen as “Musician of the Year” and “Tenor Sax of the Year” and his album Road Shows, Vol. 2, was chosen as Best Record of the Year. (Road Shows Vol. 1 had been voted “Historical Recording of the Year” in 2009.)

There’s little doubt that Sonny Rollins, also the winner of the National Medal of Arts and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, continues, at age 82, to produce music that merits the highest Awards. Each year, JJA voting members are faced with the dilemma of how to honor Sonny’s continuing and undeniably “colossal” work while also recognizing other meritorious musicians. So for the 2013 Awards, the JJA decided to honor Sonny with a special award declaring him “Emeritus Jazz Artist: Beyond Voting.”

That isn’t “Emeritus” in the sense of “retired,and no longer playing” no, not at all– it’s simply meant to recognize Sonny’s unmatched, and perhaps unmatchable, achievements, which began so many years ago. (The “Jazz Colossus” nickname, by the way, was the name of an album Sonny released in 1955.)

Sonny is, what’s more, not only still recognized for his musical excellence by the professional jazz journalists who make up the JJA, he’s still much beloved by his many, many fans.

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