Rollini was born June 28, 1903 to Ferdinand Rollini and Adele Augenti Rollini.He was born in New York into a somewhat wealthy family and was the eldest of several children, Growing up in Larchmont, New York, he began to take piano lessons on a miniature piano, at the age of 2 and was good enough to play for an audience - he gave a 15 minute Chopin recital at the Waldorf Astoria at the age of four.
He continued with music and by age 14 he was leading his own group comprised of neighborhood boys, in which he doubled on piano and xylophone. He gigged around and finally made his break in 1922, when he began to play for the California Ramblers. Originally intended to play piano for them, the manager, Ed Kirkeby, suggested to him that he learn the somewhat cumbersome bass saxophone as a possible tuba double. It only took him 2 weeks until he began playing and recording with the bass saxophone.
Over time, he developed a distinctive style. He cut many sides under the California Ramblers and formed two subgroups- The Little Ramblers (starting in 1924) and the Goofus Five (most prominently 1926-1927). During this time, he managed to lay down hundreds of sessions with names like Annette Hanshaw, Cliff Edwards (Ukelele Ike), Joe Venuti and his Blue Four, The University Six, Miff Mole, and Red Nichols to name a few. Some of his best work would include the Bix sides he cut. (Scattered throughout the 1920s, Rollini's great bass sax solos were on scores of records, and they usually outstanding.)
In 1927 Rollini went to England and played in Fred Elizade’s band until September of 1928, when he returned to New York, but the California Ramblers had pretty much folded. He continued to work, recording with such artists as Lee Morse, The Dorsey Brothers, Ben Selvin and Jack Teagarden. The 1930s saw a shift in musical idea- away from the "hot" sound and towards a more centered, polished sound, and Rollini adapted. In 1932 he formed Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra (primarily a studio group assembled for recording), and they began to record in 1933, primarily for Vocalion and Banner.
His other groups would include the Adrian Rollini Quintette, The Adrian Rollini Trio (primarily late 1930s) and Adrian and his Tap Room Gang which was based in the Hotel President at 234 West 48th Street in New York City. He went on to play hotels, as well as arranging and writing songs behind the scenes, collaborating with such names as Vaughan Monroe but he never did any big recording once the big band era really got underway only appearing here
and there - his trio pretty much represents the last of his great work. He did a brief tour in the late 1940s in which he came to the Majestic Theater in downtown Dallas, as well as other cities.
Rollini settled in Florida where he last worked at the Eden Roc Hotel in September 1955. He also operated the Driftwood Lodge at Tavernier Key. He died May 15, 1956 at the age of 52 after an 18 day stay in the hospital following a severe trauma to his ankle suffered in the early morning hours (apparently from an auto-related accident)in the parking lot of The Green Turtle Inn at Islamorada Key.
According to the recent book, Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats, the author, M.D. Frederick J. Spencer (also a coroner) analyzed Rollini’s death along with many other jazz greats, and discovered Rollini truly died of mercury poisoning. While in his 18-day stay, he had developed a resistance to feeding and so a glass tube had been inserted into his stomach. The tube was weighted with mercury and somehow the tube broke, exposing Rollini to mercury poisoning.
In 1998, Adrian Rollini was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. (edited mainly from Wikipedia)