What do you expect from Sonny Rollins? He has been recording music for over 50 years now and continues to hold sell out concerts all over the globe. His genius has been the ability to create instantaneous music (AKA improvise) night-after-night. Unlike say, Mick Jagger who we expect to perform "Satisfaction" the same every night, Sonny's music is reborn anew with each performance. If he has been criticized over the years, it is for some lackluster studio sessions. If you think about it, a pure improviser like Sonny seems almost caged in the environment of headphones and recording booths.
He seems to have overcome his studio troubles as evidenced by the 1998 Global Warning, nominated by many jazz critics as record of the year. Sure, there are still the nagging complaints about any Sonny Rollins' disc, that bassist Bob Cranshaw is plugged in to an electric outlet and some of Sonny's arrangements call for the drummer to play too straight-ahead. For me, I'll take that distinct tenor in about any formats available. At seventy his sound and creativity hasn't diminished.
He gives us his trademark calypso on "Salvador," blowing muscular lines between Stephen Scott's piano (who almost stole the show on Global Warning ). Sonny likes to move his listener's behinds. He also can move you with his ballad work. Take "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square," the standard evokes both romantic and whimsical references. Rollins' tells stories, but from his perspective (listen up all you twenty-something recording stars, this is called finding your own voice). While it seems that Jack DeJohnette, the veteran of Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Joe Henderson, Charles Lloyd, and Sonny's band is only along for window dressing, it doesn't distract from the record.
Clifton Anderson does play a large role. His trombone provides the shading and almost muted tones Rollins' uses to launch his voice. On "Charles M." for Mingus, he takes an inspired solo as does Cranshaw and Scott. Anderson applies a plunger and "talks" his solo, the old fashioned way.
Sonny Rollins seems to always be there at critical time in jazz's history. Whether growing up in Harlem with Bud Powell, gigging with Thelonious Monk, leading civil right protest with his music, or delving deep into spirituality, he has out-lasted just about every "new" trend in music and he is still standing.
Personnel: Sonny Rollins: Tenor Saxophone; Clifton Anderson: Trombone; Stephen Scott: Piano; Bob Cranshaw: Electric Bass; Jack DeJohnette: Drums; Perry Wilson: Drums.