August 8, 2008


Still Building His Castles of Sound (BEN RATLIFF, 8/08/08, NY Times)

Sixty years in show business teaches a bandleader how to build a performance arc, or, in the saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s case, a series of them. [...]

As the concert passed the 40-minute mark, on “Sonny, Please,” Mr. Rollins broke ground. He started a solo in melodic bursts, then stepped off the song’s grid and went for it. He improvised a few stretchy ballad melodies outside of the song’s harmony and rhythm, and started the steep ascent, passing through a quotation of the “I’m in heaven” melody from Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” eventually running phrases together into smeary blasts. It was quite a climb. Then came a precipitous plunge to earth: a level, muted version of his calypso “St. Thomas.”

On a basic shuffle blues Mr. Rollins’s ambition rose again. He played a tangle of harmonically abstract lines that moved gradually toward blues language, ending in a drilling, repeated honk. He came to the lip of the stage and bent forward so that the bell of his horn broadcast into the front rows. Then another long dip: a restful, almost sluggish version of “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Mr. Rollins had built his two towers, and fairly close together. The last song, Berlin’s “Change Partners,” with a long solo by Mr. Anderson, was graceful but unnecessary. The work was done

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2008 6:26 AM
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