Alto saxophonist Gary Foster told me recently that for years he has owned a copy of a letter that Sonny Rollins (pictured right) sent to Coleman Hawkins (pictured left) in 1962. Intrigued and keeping in mind both mens’ characters, reputations and influence on the music, I asked to see it. After I did, I asked Mr. Foster if the letter was copyrighted and whether we could show it to the Rifftides readership. He brought a third prominent saxophonist and Rollins admirer into the discussion. Here is his answer:
I thought of Don Menza. He told me recently that he speaks regularly with Sonny. I phoned Don and he phoned Sonny a few moments ago. Don just called and said that Sonny told him the letter is not in any way protected and he would be glad to have it published. He is glad to know that there is interest in it.
With thanks to Mr. Menza for his help, Mr. Foster for inspiring the idea and —particularly—Mr. Rollins, here are the three pages of the letter.
Eight months after he wrote to Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins appeared with his idol at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival. Their rhythm section was Paul Bley, piano; Henry Grimes, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. Here is one of the most celebrated pieces from their collaboration.
The nine tracks from Sonny Meets Hawk are on this remastered album.