sonny rollins at massey hall

We saw Sonny Rollins at Massey Hall on Saturday night.

I am relatively new to jazz (compared to my other musical interests) and this was the first Jazz Giant I have seen in person. It was also the first live music we've heard in ages - strange, because live music was central to our lives for so long. We took a very rare Saturday night off work to go.

Sonny Rollins is a fascinating person, and a quintessential artist. At 76 years old, he's been making music for six decades. He's collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins and and Thelonious Monk, among others. He's also famously taken long hiatuses from performing: for a time living on Lower East Side in New York City and practicing his horn at night on the Williamsburg Bridge, and another extended period studying Buddhism, yoga and other Eastern practices in Japan and India.

Rollins's music is hugely expressive. It's exuberant, but also restrained. It's melodic, open and optimistic, and it swings like crazy. His tenor sax is rich and full, with big, fat notes and a smokey sound.

For my personal tastes, Rollins's music embodies everything I love about jazz and avoids everything I dislike about it. The show on Saturday night avoided that worst of all jazz excesses, self-indulgence. Even the dreaded drum solo was a light call-and-response with Rollins's sax. (Sorry drummers, but you seldom have anything to say on your own.)

The lineup on his current tour features Clifton Anderson on trombone (he's amazing!), Bobby Broom on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Koie Watkins on drums and Kimati Dinizulu on African percussion. The double percussion gives the sound a lot of depth.

Rollins's website is terrific; there are lots of audio and video clips, and tons of great information. You might also want to read about Rollins's life and carreer on Wikipedia.

No comments: