Sonny Rollins at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. August 28, 1999. The band: Stephen Scott on piano; Bob Cranshaw on electric bass; Perry Wilson on drums; Victor See Yuen on percussion; Clifton Anderson on trombone. Well, they came out swingin'. Despite the four thousand seat venue, the band played like it was in a club. And Sonny Rollins? The emcee introduced him as "The Master" and that was no exaggeration. The guy has such command of his horn and the whole process, I just don't think there's anyone in jazz today to surpass him. Many of Rollins' stylistic trademarks were there from the first tune ("Biji")funk, swing, modes, snatches of the melody throughout. Clifton Anderson showed that he too can sustain a really interesting prolonged solo. Anderson, who's played with Rollins since the early '80's, looked like he was really enjoying himself, getting off on Rollins' playing and having a good time. Bob Cranshaw, a Rollins band mate off and on since the mid-'60's, another complete master of his craft, played beautifully throughout (also looking very relaxed). One needs to pay close attention to Stephen Scott, whose playing is not flashy, but was filled with lots of taste and inspiration as well as technique (he also did a nice intro on kalimba - African thumb piano - for Rollins' tune "Global Warming". Perry Wilson did not look relaxed. He was too busy being extremely attentive to everything else going on in the band, providing terrific accompaniment to solos and drive through the whole concert. His solo on "They Say That Falling in Love is Wonderful" was beautifully developed in intensity and intricacy. Victor See Yuen, while a very good player,especially on congas, didn't seem to add enough color. I talked above about some of Sonny Rollins' stylistic trademarks. I also enjoyed the way he played short phrases and rhythms behind the other players, his booming low notes, his alternation of long lines and fragments, lots and lots of modulations. His compositions, many built on calypso rhythms, are infectious. And without saying a whole lot verbally, he brought a real intensity to the affair, whether raising his fist in the air, spreading his environmental message or giving Billie Holiday her due ("You can't forget Billie Holiday because she made it possible for "The Mis-education of.....Lauryn Hill").Just a final word on another feature which made this concert so enjoyable, the amphitheater itself. Set in the woods of D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, which is run by the National Park Service, this is a beautiful venue. Ticket price was a mere $16 ($18 for phone charge), seating was general admission and there were no bad ones. Include disability access and free parking and you have an incomparable concert situation. Your tax dollars at work!
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.