All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live Reviews

Sonny Rollins: San Francisco, CA, September 30, 2012

By Published: October 14, 2012
Sonny Rollins
Symphony Hall
San Francisco, CA
September 30, 2012
Excitement was palpable among people milling around the entrance of Symphony Hall in downtown San Francisco during the evening of September 30, 2012, where legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins was to appear.

Just past 8:00pm, he was introduced by Randall Kline of SFJAZZ, the sponsor of the city's jazz festival. A New York City, native, Theodore Walter "Sonny" Rollins has long been a fixture on the jazz scene. At 82, he's still trying new things—recently starting his own Doxy record label (with two releases so far)—and was named a Fellow at the Kennedy Center last year.

Rollins sports a flowing mane of white hair and a white beard; he was wearing a long white shirt on this evening. As took the stage, he was greeted with a heartfelt standing ovation. Unlike many jazz legends, Rollins is quite loquacious, and has a series of compositions named after his mentors and friends in the jazz universe.

Rollins opened with the first of these, "D Cherry," a lovely tribute dedicated to the "free spirit" of pocket trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
, best-known for his work with alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
and also-departed tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman
Dewey Redman
Dewey Redman
b.1931
sax, tenor
. Next up was "Patanjali," which featured an extended solo by purple-clad trombonist Clifton Anderson
Clifton Anderson
Clifton Anderson
b.1957
trombone
, Rollins' nephew. Anderson received his first trombone from his uncle and has been playing with Rollins' group for more than two decades. The tune ended on a crescendo, with the saxophonist bent over.

But not for long. Rollins swiftly launched into legendary pianist Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston
b.1926
piano
's "Carnival," a tune that really and truly embodies the West Indies' "jump up" tradition, as the saxophonist played with his back to the audience. Guitarist Saul Rubin
Saul Rubin
Saul Rubin
b.1958
guitar
also soloed magnificently. Afterwards, Rollins commented that "I usually don't play that song, but somebody asked me to. So I played it because I am a nice guy."

Next, Rollins pulled up a chestnut from The Great American Songbook, "Once in A While." As he soloed, his great white mane of hair appeared ethereal in the stage lights.

"Serenade," which "evoked an Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
feeling" (referencing the late drum legend), reminded Rollins that "there's another guy that I need to write a song about." Anderson's solo interpolated gently with Rollins' tenor, evidence of their longstanding collaboration. Afro-haired and glasses-wearing drummer Kobie Watkins
Kobie Watkins
Kobie Watkins
b.1975
drums
soloed as Rollins exited and then reentered, wearing sunglasses, to bring the composition to an end with a flourish.

Next up was "J.J.," a melodic, haunting ballad dedicated to the late trombonist J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
1924 - 2001
trombone
who, according to Rollins, "was sort of my mentor. Everybody loved him. J.J.: are you listening? This is for J.J." Watkins played wire brushes for this one, and Anderson soloed again.

Following a short burst of sound, marking the beginning of "Don't Stop the Carnival," Rollins announced "That's our show for tonight," before playing through the tune, clenching his fist in the air and leaving the stage to the accompaniment of a triumphant standing ovation.


comments powered by Disqus