The New 411
By Raymond Ward, Chicago Crusader
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library recently announced the acquisition of American tenor, saxophonist and jazz legend Sonny Rollins’s personal archive. The robust collection includes more than 150 linear feet of material that documents Rollins’s life and career from the 1950s to the present.
To be primarily housed within the Schomburg Center’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division, the Rollins archive joins a robust collection of jazz-related materials across the institution’s divisions, including the A Great Day in Harlem Documentary collection, the Louis Armstrong Jazz Oral History project, the Don Redman papers, the Billy Taylor collection, the Ron Carter collection, and the Duke Ellington Society collection.
“Famous for his reinventions, Sonny Rollins and his archive reveal the profound nature of jazz, America’s classical music. Drafts, notes on composition, extensive correspondence, the entire spirit and scope of the Rollins archive show his sophisticated, sustained, and spiritual creative process up close in a way that may best be called literary,” said Kevin Young, noted author and Director of the Schomburg Center. “Having the archive of Sonny Rollins come home here, just blocks from where he was born and grew into one of our finest artists, provides a connection to the geniuses who made Harlem and whose legacies, like those of James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, also are housed at the Schomburg.”
Highlights from the Sonny Rollins Archive include:
- Personal papers, diaries, notes, and drawings illuminating Rollins’s private thoughts and creative process sporadically through the decades
- Recordings of practice sessions as well as recording takes from as early as the 1960s
- Snapshots and photos from life on the road with his fellow musicians from as early as the 1960s
- Personal correspondence between Rollins and his wife and manager, Lucille Pearson, over the decades that range the gamut from love notes to unfiltered thoughts related to colleagues, bandmates, and business
The Sonny Rollins archive will be processed over the next year at NYPL’s Library Services Center in Long Island City, and will be made available for research at the Schomburg Center.