Rollins Takes Polar Prize

Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and avant-garde composer Steve Reich are the winners of this year’s Polar Music Prize.

The Royal Academy of Music, which selects the winners, said 76-year-old Rollins has "raised the accompanied solo to the highest artistic level – all characterized by a distinctive and powerful sound, irresistible swing and an individual sense of humor."

He’s the third jazz musician to receive the Polar Prize, joining Dizzy Gillespie and Keith Jarrett.

Reich has "transferred questions of faith, society and philosophy into a hypnotic-sounding music that has inspired musicians and composers of all genres."

The two U.S. musicians will receive their million-kronor (US$143,000) prizes from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at an awards ceremony in Stockholm on May 21st.

"It’s a real honor for me to receive the Polar Prize from the great country of Sweden," Rollins said in a statement released through his publicist.

"Sweden has always been one of my favorite places to play over the years. The Swedish public has been very receptive to my music and supportive of jazz in general."

Rollins recently reestablished himself at the top of the jazz scene with his Grammy-winning CD Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert, his first live recording in nearly 20 years.

His latest record, Sonny, Please, his first studio album in five years, was released in the autumn on his own newly created Doxy label and recently received a Grammy nomination in the best jazz instrumental album category.

In 2006 he won double honors at the 10th annual Jazz Awards in New York, where he was named both musician and tenor saxophonist of the year.

Reich, 70, achieved worldwide fame in the 1970s with his percussion work Drumming as well as with the group Steve Reich and Musicians.

His music has been performed by orchestras and ensembles around the globe, including the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

The Polar Music Prize is the country’s biggest music award and was founded by ABBA manager Stig Anderson in 1989, when he made a donation to the academy to help fund it.

The prize is usually split between pop or rock artists and classical musicians.

Previous winners include former Beatle Paul McCartney, violinist Isaac Stern, U.S. rock star Bruce Springsteen, conductor Pierre Boulez and music producer Quincy Jones.

The 2006 prize went to British rock band Led Zeppelin and Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.