Sonny Rollins, the Colossus
When I visited Sonny Rollins at his home in Germantown, New York, a semi-hardscrabble hamlet 100 miles up the Hudson River, the 82-year-old jazzman they call the Saxophone Colossus was doing his laundry. "Oh, man, come on in, man," Sonny said in his reedy, slightly high-pitched voice as he stuck his head out the back door of the modest house, blood-orange skullcap on his kingly, lantern-jawed head. Jumble of shirts fresh from the dryer in his arms, he led me through the cluttered kitchen to a sitting room. "Be with you in a minute," he said with a sigh.
For Sonny, certainly one of the greatest tenor-saxophone players in the history of the instrument invented by Adolphe Sax in 1841, and a key figure in jazz for more than half a century, it is a drag any time "the celestial Big Picture" is infringed upon by "the Little Picture," which the musician defines as "that day-to-day crap you have to put up with on this misbegotten planet."
Doing the laundry, while necessary, was definitely in the latter category. But the entire past few weeks had been a hassle, Sonny said. He was booked to leave on a European tour with gigs in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and "some other burgs." There would be arrangements, flights, hotels to stay in. Not that all that hadn't happened before, hundreds of times. The new thing was "the move," Rollins' then in-progress relocation across the Hudson River to a larger house near Woodstock. After living in Germantown for four decades, the last nine years by himself since the death of his wife and manager, Lucille Rollins, the shift was proving more problematic than the jazzman had expected. There was always one more box to pack, one more real estate agent to talk to. Plus, telemarketers kept ringing on the phone, the very sound of which caused Sonny to summon his innermost Buddha Nature, lest he fly off the handle. The whole thing was giving him "psychological claustrophobia," Sonny said.