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Published: 2008/12/22
by Brad Farberman

Road Shows, v. 1 – Sonny Rollins


It’s been a rough couple of years for jazz. Since 2007, we’ve lost the master drummer Max Roach, a trio of great pianists (Alice Coltrane, Joe Zawinul, Oscar Peterson), a pair of fine producers (Joel Dorn, Teo Macero), two tenor saxophone titans (Michael Brecker, Johnny Griffin), the clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, and the funky organ hero Jimmy McGriff.

But we’ve still got Sonny Rollins. The veteran tenor saxophonist, now 78, is alive and (playing) well, and the proof is plain to hear on Road Shows, v. 1, a new collection of live cuts, including three recorded since 2006 (and others dating as far back as 1980). One track in particular, a trio selection from 2007, finds the saxophone colossus in tiptop shape.

And tiptop company. Featuring famed drummer Roy Haynes (now in his 80s!) and the indefatigable Christian McBride on double bass, said trio recording (the standard “Some Enchanted Evening”) is ten minutes of soul and mellow fire, a portrait of the artist as an old man who’s still hungry, and still searching for the new land.

But Road Shows doesn’t begin and end with “This Enchanted Evening”; Rollins is hungry on the other tracks, too. The grooving “Nice Lady,” also from 2007, finds the leader and his sextet in good spirits, with solid solos from trombonist Clifton Anderson, percussionist Kimati Dinizulu, and Rollins himself, whose playing grows almost ferocious at moments. “Blossom,” one of four Rollins originals on the disc, is propelled by the pianist Mark Soskin, and finds Rollins in typical form: swinging like mad, and soloing like crazy.

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