Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sonny Rollins - Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy/Decca, 2011)

The legendary saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins is renowned for his extraordinary live performances. On this second volume of live recordings he is releasing under the Road Shows banner, the music focuses on 2010 and his interaction with special guests. He sounds completely at ease on stage, talking to the crowd and introducing his band and guests, and his playing is as vibrant as ever. The recording is bookended by two recordings from an autumn 2010 tour of Japan with his touring band, consisting of Russell Malone on guitar, 
Bob Cranshaw on bass, 
Kobie Watkins on drums and 
Sammy Figueroa on percussion playing a lengthy and pulsating version of "They Say It's Wonderful" with Rollins soloing with energy and enthusiasm. There is also a brief snippet of Rollins' theme song "St. Thomas" from the Japanese tour while he graciously thanks the crowd and introduces his musicians. But the main crux of the album comes from the famous Sonny @ 80 birthday concert from The Beacon Theatre, in New York city; September 10, 2010. Many special quests were on hand for this special occasion, including guitarist Jim Hall, whom Rollins recorded with in the 1960's. Hall is graciously handed the spotlight on a short but poignant version of "In a Sentimental Mood." Things really start to heat up with an apocalyptic twenty-minute plus version of "Sonnymoon for Two," backed by Christian McBride on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. This would be enough to bring the house down, but when Ornette Coleman joins in on alto saxophone, magic truly happens. Coleman and Rollins bob and weave around each other, occasionally speaking different dialects of the same language, but playing beautifully on a history making performance. Highly lauded by Rollins in his introduction, Roy Hargrove joins the regular working band on trumpet for fine performances of the standard "I Can't Get Started" and Billy Strayhorn's "Raincheck." On his web site, Sonny Rollins states that there is much more to come in the Road Shows series, but he was anxious to document his playing at the present time. As as can be heard on this album, that playing is as wonderful as ever. Road Shows Vol. 2 -

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