May 2007

Sonny Rollins
May 5, 2007 Massey Hall Toronto
Sonny Sounding So Sweet
by Paul J. Youngman
Sonny Rollins and company stormed into town this past weekend on the start of a world tour in support of a new album, Sonny Please, released on Rollin’s new label Doxy Records. The tour will take in about 20 concert halls; the group accompanying Mr. Rollins is made up of Clifton Anderson – trombone, Bobby Broom – guitar, Bob Cranshaw – bass, Steve Jordan – drums and Kimati Dinizulu – percussion.

Unfortunately, I missed the introduction and first song. I love seeing Rollins in his transformer mode, old man hobbles out on the stage, hauls what appears to be a giant horn to his mouth and before your eyes the transformation takes place — instantly the old man is transformed into a mighty bebop God. The huge, melodic and wickedly swinging tenor sound billows out of the mouth of the horn, the musician’s body becomes elastic; bending, swaying, turning this way and that way, dancing with his saxophone and swaying to the most beautiful sounds imaginable — a Saxophone Colossus.

I came into the theatre with the rest of the latecomers, settled in and took in the scene before me. Mr. Rollins dressed to kill, looking like a New York fashion statement, greeted us with a warning to beware of the unions, “No taping or videoing the performance, I just don’t want to see anybody get into any trouble”, he said.

The band in support of Mr. Rollins took on a very relaxed air, conserving energy for the long haul ahead with their esteemed leader. At 76, Sonny Rollins is still going strong, an inspiration in his endurance and determination to play with the intensity and the energy of someone half his age.

When Sonny Rollins takes to the stage, jazz history comes to life. A tenor saxophonist with an exceptional tone and a style that is fresh and vibrant, full of fire, communicating with a sense of urgency, laying down bold statements of pure melodic grace and elegance compounded with exciting dynamics.

There was a good size crowd on hand, a mix of young and old. I overheard one gentleman reminiscing about having seen the famed May 1953 Charlie Parker quintet concert at this same venue. That concert is considered to be one of the greatest jazz concerts ever. Sonny Rollins was not a part of it, but I’m sure he has had some great concerts over the past 50 years and with similar line-ups. Roach, Mingus, Powell and Gillespie formed the supporting cast of powerhouse musicians for that famed concert, all of those jazz superstars played with Rollins at different times.

The Sonny Rollins sextet played some songs from the new album such as the title track “Sonny Please”, a dynamite tune that has great saxophone breaks, with Rollins still exploring, inventing and creating at a high level. They also played “Serenade” a song reminiscent of “Auld Lang Syne” as well as “Someday I’ll Find You” and “Stairway To the Stars”. Some of the Sonny Rollins standards were also included, “Don’t Stop The Carnival” and “St. Thomas”.

Mr. Rollins didn’t announce the songs, he was all business, commanding the stage and actually taking over for the most part. There were some exciting elements contributed by Clifton Anderson on trombone, he has a very nice tone and can play with some fire once he’s warmed up. The percussionist, Kimati Dinizulu, was on the same page as Mr. Rollins, providing superb accompaniment with inspirational improvisational moments of excitement and audible delight, producing sounds from every corner of the globe.

The night belonged to Sonny Rollins, he could do no wrong, and he’s still playing with integrity, honesty, fire and passion. The love he has for this music is so obvious and it comes through in every note, in every howl and in every breath that he takes. As we applauded for a final encore number, I heard many in the audience chanting — We Love You Sonny.

There would be no encore, Sonny Rollins would simply wave. Speaking into the microphone before his exit he said, “Will see you again, I hope!”

We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2007