Sonny Rollins on the relevance of jazz

2008_0418_SonnyRollins I interviewed Sonny Rollins tonight for the second time. Before the interview, I asked my wife Jennifer, who’s a casual jazz listener, what one question she’d ask Sonny if she were interviewing him. She said she’d ask him whether jazz is still relevant. So I asked him, and this is what he said:

“I think that the relevance of jazz depends on what you think jazz is. For instance, if you think that jazz is a piano trio playing in a small nightclub — they’re good musicians, maybe have a girl singer — and you come in and there are people smoking and sitting at tables … if that is your conception of jazz then of course jazz is not relevant, because that refers to a time and place. Jazz is something which is much bigger. Jazz has to do with freedom of expression. So is jazz still relevant? Of course, because there are always people trying to express themselves in music. I think of jazz as having the big umbrella, so that a lot of styles of music that have merged over the years all fall under the umbrella of jazz. The act of trying to create something musically and spontaneously is something that is a part of life. It’s like the weather — it’s always there. Jazz as something that fits into a narrow little remembrance, no, that kind of jazz is not relevant. But jazz is as relevant today as the yearning for people to be free. That’s how relevant jazz is.”

4 Replies to “Sonny Rollins on the relevance of jazz”

  1. At Last,..the TRUTH is revealed!

    Master Sonny has summed up just about everything I’ve heard,read,and tried to write about Jazz,..the bottom line,.

    relating the music and those who engage it to LIFE,..

    MAD props to Sonny and Jason..

  2. Newk is my absolute inspiration and hero. How relevant is music today to the american audience is indeed a larger question. Most of these last couple genrations expect to download it for free and do so. Is it more prevalent or less so in the the schools? Most I know say the whole ” music literacy” is down. Fewer radio stations play jazz than ever and barely any TV now. perhaps Youtube is filling that gap but there is no revenue being genrated for artists. The audience at festivals is the same people for the last 20 years hence the average age is now 40-50. And while jazz will always exist in basements and clubs here and there, will it ever return to a level enjoyed in the 60s or earlier?

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