Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sonny Rollins - Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy/Universal, 2008)

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins is legendary for his prodigious live performances. He also hates listening to himself on tapes or discs, but he grudgingly started going through his archive and picking performances for what will hopefully become a long running series of live music compilations. Cherry picking from the past twenty years, the disc leads off with an extraordinary performance of "Best Wishes" which is a rousing uptempo song in which Sonny absolutely charges through the music like a mounted knight with a lance. Electric bass pulses underneath while bashing drums encourage a breakneck momentum. Seemingly possessing limitless energy, Rollins is like a star streaming light and heat into space. This is just a gargantuan performance, just larger than life. In a way, it overwhelms the rest of the selections here, as good as they are. "More Than You Know" is a medium tempoed song, sounding lush and full. There is a meek sounding guitar solo before Sonny takes command and gets the music back on track. "Blossom" also begins at a medium tempo with some strong saxophone and piano, before Rollins breaks free from the band with a potent, lashing solo wailing like a force of nature. "Tenor Madness" hearkens back to the glory days of the late 1950's when giants walked the earth, and the solos here are truly special as they are on the disc ending ballad "Some Enchanted Evening." Given Rollins well documented discomfort in the sterile environment of recording studios, this may be the best way to hear him at his finest, in the hothouse environment of the live concert. This was a wonderful album, and hopefully the first of many volumes.
Road Shows: Vol. 1 -

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