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When Sonny Rollins walked onstage, the audience in the elegant theater's auditorium froze for a startling momentthe brief moment of common realization that it was witnessing jazz history. The jazz titan bowed and began telling the story of jazz and the story of his life in a firm and tender saxophone elegy, punctuated by moments of respite in which he was listening respectfully to the solos of his band mates: Russell Malone on guitar, Kobie Watkins on drums, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Sammy Figueroa on percussion.
Sonny Rollins' solos took one to the Harlem clubs and onto the bridge where he used to rehearse, and made one think of Miles Davis' words, recorded in his autobiography: "Sonny Rollins was a legend, almost a god to a lot of the younger musicians. Some thought he was playing the saxophone on the level of Bird. I know one thinghe was close. He was an aggressive, innovative player who always had fresh musical ideas. I loved him back then as a player and he could also write his ass off..."
Perfectly sustained by his crew, The Titan revisited some of his favorite themeslike "My One and Only Love"with a softer note, and added to their beauty by using a quieter, more reflexive pace; elaborated masterfully on more actual standards and closed the concert by singing: "Falling in love again, never wanted to, what am I to do? Can't help it." Master, we can't help but thank you for sharing with us a few precious moments of your wondrous existence!
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.