Two Americans Win Polar Music Prize

Composer and musician Steve Reich and tenor saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins are the winners of the Polar Music Prize 2007. The prizewinners were unveiled on Thursday, January 25 at The Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm.

The Royal Academy of Music, which selects the winners, said Reich had ”transferred questions of faith, society and philosophy into a hypnotic sounding music that has inspired musicians and composers of all genres.”

Reich, 70, achieved worldwide fame in the 1970’s 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 academy said it chose Rollins, ”one of the most powerful and personal voices in jazz for more than 50 years,” for raising ”the accompanied solo to the highest artistic level - all characterized by a distinctive and powerful sound, irresistible swing and an individual sense of humour.”

The 76-year-old tenor saxophonist recently re-established 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.

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

Rollins’ latest CD, ”Sonny, Please,” his first studio album in five years, was released last fall on his own newly created Doxy label and recently received a Grammy nomination in the best jazz instrumental album category.

”It’s a real honour 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 favourite places to play over the years. The Swedish public has been very receptive to my music and supportive of jazz in general.”

He is the third jazz musician to receive the Polar Prize, after Dizzy Gillespie and Keith Jarrett.