The third installment of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' live performances, Road Shows, Volume 3 is the most uniformly outstanding of the series. A task that is hard to achieve since the first two albums were superb musical gems in their own right. Despite covering a span of 11 years the current disc demonstrates extreme thematic cohesiveness, mostly thanks to Rollins' timeless and unique innovative style.
His eight-minute unaccompanied improvisation "Solo Sonny" recorded in St Louis in 2009, for example, is filled with fluid harmonies, passionate spontaneity and whimsy as he quotes from such diverse standards as "Oh! Susanna" and "A-Tisket-A-Tasket." His brassy tones flow freely with intelligence and elegant intricacy while remaining sublimely melodic.
A similar stimulating mixture of the visceral and cerebral marks the 2012 "Patanjali" from Marseilles France. Drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Sammy Figueroa lay down funky refrains around bassist Bob Cranshaw's reverberating strums. Over these soulful vamps, Rollins' blows energetic complex phrases that stretch far from the main melody but return to it with thrilling agility and muscular impact. Guitarist Peter Bernstein's thick resonant chords and conversational bars simmer over the bubbling rumble of the rhythm section.
Rollins leads the group in support of trombonist Clifton Anderson's earthy, eloquent growl as the latter embellishes "Biji" (taped in 2001 in Satama Japan). Pianist Stephen Scott weaves infectious and hard swinging lines around the percussion heavy, driving cadence of his band- mates. Rollins' stately and sophisticated yet ardently unfettered extemporization closes the tune.
Rollins' exciting and ingenious interaction with his sidemen is best represented on the centerpiece of the record; "Why Was I Born?." His electrifying and riveting duet with drummer Steve Jordan pushes the boundaries of the on-the-spot creativity without losing sight of the spirit of the song. Each man eggs the other on to further breathtaking acrobatics. The track also features guitarist Bobby Broom's delightfully dark smoldering groove.
To call Rollins a master or a legend is both redundant and pedantic. He simply is Sonny Rollins and this disc is yet another one of his many masterpieces.
Biji; Someday I'll Find You; Patanjali; Solo Sonny; Why Was I Born?; Don't Stop The
Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Clifton Anderson: trombone; Bob Cranshaw: bass;
Stephen Scott: piano (1); Perry Wilson: drums (1); Kimati Dinizulu: percussion (1, 2, 5);
Bobby Broom: guitar (2, 4, 5); Victor Lewis: drums (2); Peter Bernstein: piano (3, 6);
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