Sweden honors composer, jazz saxophonist

Composer Steve Reich and jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins were named the winners of the 2007 Polar Music Prize on Thursday.

The two U.S. musicians will receive the $143,000 prize from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at an awards ceremony in Stockholm on May 21.

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 1970s with his percussion work “Drumming” and 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 tapped 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 humor.”

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.

Rollins’ latest CD, “Sonny, Please,” his first studio album in five years, was released last fall on his own newly created Doxy label.

“It’s a real honor for me to receive the Polar Prize from the great country of Sweden,” he 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.”

The Polar Music Prize is Sweden’s biggest music award and was founded by Stig Anderson, manager of Swedish pop group ABBA, in 1989 through a donation to the academy.

The prize is typically split between pop artists and classical musicians. Previous winners include Paul McCartney, Isaac Stern, Bruce Springsteen, Pierre Boulez and Quincy Jones.

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

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