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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Acquires Archive of Jazz Great Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins.

CHUCK STEWART/COURTESY SCHOMBURG CENTER, NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY​

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library, announced today the acquisition of a personal archive spanning the 60-year long career of American tenor saxophonist and jazz icon Sonny Rollins. The collection will be housed within the Center’s moving-image and recorded-sound division in Harlem.

Rollins’ photographs.

COURTESY JONATHAN BLANC AND THE NYPL

The archive offers an intimate glimpse into Rollins’s professional and personal life. Highlights from this “robust collection” of material include recordings of “unheard music and practice sessions,” Rollins’ photographs from his travels abroad, and annotated sheet music as well as other personal writings such as letters that Rollins sent to his wife and partner of over 45 years, Lucille Pearson Rollins.

In a statement, Kevin Young, the Schomburg Center’s director, said that Rollins’ archive reveals “the profound nature of jazz, America’s classical music.” He further noted that “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.”

“Well, I’m home again,” Rollins, now 86 years old, added in the same statement, referring to the return of his work to Harlem. “Home, where I absorbed the rich culture which was all around me. Where, on 137th Street, two blocks from the Schomburg, I was born in 1930. This archive reveals my life in music, how someone principally self-taught became taught. How the spiritual light of jazz protected and fed me, as it does to this day.”

In moving to the Schomburg Center, the Rollins archive will join a number of other notable collections including the Louis Armstrong Jazz Oral History Project, Don Redman’s papers, and collections relating to Billy Taylor, Ron Carter, and Duke Ellington.  

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