On the Road with Sonny

Sonny Rollins had been managed by his wife, Lucille, until she passed away in 2004. They started working together in 1971, after she persuaded him to come back from a hiatus.

Eventually, Lucille, who had been doing all the tour work, was looking to hire a tour manager. Ted Kurland in Boston (Sonny’s agent) put her in touch with Peter Downey. Downey, a Berklee alum, had admired and studied Rollins’ work and was excited for the job. He had already worked as a tour manager and audio engineer for musicians like Henry Connick Jr. and Whitney Houston.

In an interview found on Noodle.com, he says that there are two parts to the job of a manager. 10% of the job is logistics, and 90% of the job is personality. “Personality”, mainly referring to Sonny’s preferences regarding accommodations. He says that after years of working with Rollins, he rarely needs to ask for his preferences because he knows his personality so well. I might guess that for smaller artists, the ratio is a bit different, because they can’t afford to be as picky about accommodations.

There aren’t many legends from Miles Davis’ generation still around. Sonny Rollins is definitely one of them. He hasn’t been touring lately however. His latest album, Sonny Please, was released in 2006, and he did headline the Newport Jazz festival in 2008. This isn’t the first time he has taken a step away from performing though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a come back.



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