Sonny Rollins – Freedom Suite

The following is from Julia Paul’s class presentation:

Sonny Rollins:

  • Theodore Walter Rollins
  • Born September 7, 1930 in NYC
  • Started on alto sax at 7 or 8 then switched to tenor sax at 16
  • Grew up with an activist grandmother who took him to marches
  • In his early career, he made records that dealt with civil rights and black pride

Freedom Suite (1958)

  • the Freedom Suite, Someday I’ll Find You, Will You Still Be Mine?, Till There Was You, Till There Was You (alternate version), Shadow Waltz
  • Tracks 2-6 recorded February 11, 1958 & track 1 recorded March 7, 1958
  • Recorded in New York
  • Sonny Rollins on the tenor sax, Oscar Pettiford on the bass, and Max Roach on the drums
  • Beginning of Civil Rights Movement- controversial album
  • “America is deeply rooted in Negro culture: its colloquialisms; its humor; its music. 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.”
  • About presence and absence of freedom as a creative artist and African American
  • One of first extended compositions for tenor sax
  • 19 minutes long (half of album)
  • Interconnected themes, variations in melody, and improvisation
    • “Play the melody, not the changes” -Thelonious Monk
  • Analysis:
    • Length of piece represents the long length of time in history that African Americans have suffered in the US
    • Composition & improvisation represents the freedom Rollins wants to live in
    • Joy, anger, and struggle all heard in song to represent many aspects of fight for equality
    • Constant melody with improvisation represents constant strength of African Americans despite hardship and constant change

(0:00-1:30, 10:00-10:45)


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