Seminal jazz artist Sonny Rollins and innovative minimalist Steve Reich were awarded the 16th annual Polar Music Prize on Monday (May 21) by His Majesty King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden.

The prestigious prize was presented during a nationally televised ceremony from Konserthuset, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra's concert hall, where the annual Nobel Prize ceremony is held.

The recipients were awarded one million Swedish kronor ($145,960) each from a donation made by the late Stig "Stikkan" Anderson -- ABBA's publisher, manager and co-lyricist -- who established the prize in 1989.

After receiving the prize from the King, the 76-year-old Rollins said he was accepting on behalf of all of the great musicians he had learned from. In his lifetime, the tenor saxophone player has performed and recorded with legends like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Rollins also paid tribute to Sweden, a country that welcomed him warmly when he performed at the same Konserthuset in 1963. "This country is perhaps the most forward-looking nation and is an example of how a nation should be in this foolish world."

After accepting his award from the King, Reich praised the Polar Music Prize for honoring musicians from all fields of music, classical and non-classical. "This is the way it should be in all prizes for music," he said.

The Polar Music Prize is awarded annually based on nominations submitted by the board of the Stig Anderson Music Award Foundation, consisting of representatives from his family, the Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers and the Swedish Performing Rights Society.

The ceremony featured performances by Viktoria Tolstoy, Timbuktu, Kroumata and Damn!

Following the early evening ceremony, a banquet honoring Rollins and Reich was held at the Grand Hotel. Among the performers at the dinner was Eagle-Eye Cherry, whose late father Don Cherry performed with Rollins at the 1963 concert in Sweden.

Speaking at the dinner was Marie Ledin, daughter of Stig Anderson. Appearing also on behalf of her brothers Laase and Anders, she paid tribute to her father and said how proud his three children were of his accomplishments and legacy. Also speaking at the dinner was U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Michael Wood, who prefaced a letter from President George W. Bush that paid tribute to Rollins and Reich by explaining he was a boyhood friend of the President. "That usually sends a chill through the room," he said, to much laughter from the mostly-Swedish audience.

Polar Music Prize activities will continue today (May 22), as Reich speaks at the Royal College of Music during the morning and Rollins performs at the Konserthuset at 7:30 p.m.

Previous winners of the prize include Sir Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Ravi Shankar, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Isaac Stern, Burt Bacharach, Robert Moog, Miriam Makeba, Keith Jarrett, B.B. King, Gilberto Gil and Led Zeppelin.

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