Sonny Rollins is one of the giants of jazz and is the only surviving member whose contemporaries include John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker. For sure, there are lots of fantastic players around today, but none who are alive have the pedigree of Sonny Rollins. I had a chance to see him live about 15 years ago and it was an unbelieaveable experience. Rollins' rich legacy of albums made between the 50s and 70s estabished and confirmed his legend, including The Bridge, Saxophone Colossus and Sonny Side Up.
Rollins was in his Manhattan apartment six blocks from Ground Zero during the 9/11 attacks, and was evacuated by rescue workers the following day, when his building lost power. I recall Nat Hentoff writing a piece about Rollins' evacuation in his back-page column in JazzTimes. Like many during that day and the following weeks, Rollins wondered whether to get back to the business of his life or withdraw. He had been booked to play this concert at the Berklee College of Music in Boston's Performance Center on Sept. 15th. His first thought was to cancel the performance, but his wife Lucille convinced him that he should leave town and do the show.
The band from this show included trombonist (and nephew) Clifton Anderson, bassist Bob Cranshaw, pianist Stephen Scott, African percussionist Kimati Dinizuli, and drummer Perry Wilson.
You can hear Sonny struggling at times, but this is coming from someone who had just turned 71 a week earlier. This album wouldn't necessarily convince someone hearing Rollins for the first time that he is held in such high esteem, but it's a fun, lively listen, with very entertaining performance from the entire group. Trombonist Clifton Anderson stands out on the calypso-influenced "Global Warming," the only Sonny original here and a touted answer to his famous "St. Thomas" from Saxophone Colossosus. Anderson absolutely cooks on the fast-paced "Why Was I Born?" Pianist Stephen Scott's playing is wonderful but some listeners will be distracted by his Keith Jarrett-like habit of singing along to his own playing. Thankfully, it's not terribly noticeable. Scott, 36, has been heralded as one of the most brilliant players of his generation, a cut above most.