August 28, 2005


Wired: First Carl Smith built an archive of Sonny Rollins recorded live. Then he decided to capture the magic himself. (Geoff Edgers, August 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

Carl Smith wore a plaid shirt that night, the dark pattern hiding the $700 microphones sewn into the fabric. He bought four seats in the second row of the Berklee Performance Center, and told his son and two friends to merely pretend to clap. Their presence would provide a sound buffer for his digital recorder.

It was Sept. 15, 2001, and Smith's mission was to capture jazz legend Sonny Rollins as he's rarely heard on record -- live and uninhibited. [....]

Four years later, after a steady campaign to earn Rollins's trust, Smith is moving closer to his greater goal, which is to reveal a different side of the last living jazz giant. On Tuesday, Fantasy Records releases ''Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert," a CD documenting the show that took place four days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Not only is this the first of Smith's live recordings to go on sale, it also signals a breakthrough in the once icy relationship with the Rollins camp, which has historically frowned on collectors.

And for jazz fans, the release offers a tantalizing proposition that cuts to the heart of the Rollins conundrum. His greatness, some contend, is best heard during his live shows. But of the few Rollins concerts legitimately released, none captures the energy and excitement of the jazz improviser on a great night.

''The best of Carl Smith's stuff is staggering," says Stanley Crouch, the writer who long urged Rollins to trust Smith. ''It actually creates a kind of a reevaluation of what we consider musical creativity. When you hear this, these chumps in hip-hop and rock, they're jokes compared to Sonny Rollins."

If only he'd had a mike on the bridge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2005 12:00 AM
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