A virtuoso guitarist and composer with a fast, classically proficient fingerstyle technique, Lawson Rollins rose to popularity in the early 2000s as one-half of the guitar duo Young & Rollins, whose cross-genre aesthetic brought together elements of Latin jazz, Brazilian music, Eastern music, flamenco, and rock. He also launched a successful solo career, scoring several Top 20 Smooth Jazz Airplay hits like “Moonlight Samba” off 2010′s Espirito, “Island Time” off 2017′s 3 Minutes to Midnight, and “World of Wonder” with 3rd Force off 2018′s Airwaves. He has continued to explore sounds from around the globe, collaborating with artists like Israeli singer Idan Raichel, virtuoso guitarist Buckethead, and as on 2021′s RISE, Haitian vocalist Jeff Pierre and longtime associate Danish violinist Mads Tolling.
A native of North Carolina, Rollins studied at Duke University before earning his graduate degree from the London School of Economics. In 1998, he relocated to Washington, D.C., where he formed the Latin fusion duo Young & Rollins with guitarist Dan Young. The duo released several well-received albums, including 2000′s Salsa Flamenca, 2001′s Sevilla, 2005′s Esperanza, and 2006′s Mosaic.
In 2007, Rollins moved to San Francisco to pursue a solo career. He released his debut solo album, Infinita, in 2008, launching his own label, Infinita Records, as well. Two years later, he returned with Espirito, scoring a Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay hit with “Moonlight Samba.” Elevation followed in 2011 and featured contributions by guitarist Buckethead, as well as the Iranian-born guitarist Shahin Shahida. Throughout each of his albums he fused a wide range of elements from Middle Eastern, Brazilian, Arabic, jazz, rock, and Latin traditions. In 2013, Rollins delivered his fourth solo album, Full Circle, which peaked at number eight on Billboard’s World Albums chart.
2015 saw the release of two albums: the brand-new Traveler and Infinite Chill, a collection of remixes of tunes from previous albums. Following another solo outing, 2017′s 3 Minutes to Midnight, he collaborated with Israeli singer/songwriter Idan Raichel on the 2018 album, And If You Will Come to Me. That same year also saw the release of Airwaves, a greatest-hits collection of Rollins’ solo work. Included on the album was the track “World of Wonder” with 3rd Force which hit number eight on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Airplay chart.
The experimental Dark Matter: Music for Film was released in 2019 and included the Top Ten Billboard Contemporary Jazz song “World of Wonder.” In January 2020, Rollins returned to his signature nylon-string guitar sound with True North. A year later, he delivered RISE, which featured collaborations with saxophonist Mary Fettig, vocalist Jeff Pierre, and violinists Charlie Bisharat and Mads Tolling. ~ Matt Collar