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Where were you on 9/11? Sonny Rollins was in his New York apartment, six blocks away from the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Persuaded by his wife to honor his commitment to perform, he delivered a magnificent and audibly moving concert at the Berklee Performing Arts Center four days later. Without a Song is his first live band recording since G-Man, and Rollins is palpably inspired as he embodies the feel of jazz.
Some men are saxophone players; Rollins plays the saxophone as his jazz vehicle. The difference is that Rollins is comfortable using his tenor in any means possible to make the song swing. Whether creating boisterous serpentine solos ("Without a Song"), joining the percussion section and clipping notes in a hypnotically rhythmic pattern ("Global Warming"), or becoming the reed section of an orchestra and providing swinging riffs behind Clifton Anderson's trombone solos ("Where or When"), Rollins is the consummate example of jazz personified. Robust and gritty as in his halcyon days, he brings the crowd to thunderous applause after each solo.
His supporting band members, usually unfairly maligned, are stellar. His nephew, Clifton Anderson, is the perfect foil for Rollins, with big and brash solos weaving in and out of each theme. Pianist Stephen Scott delivers, and long-time bassist Bob Cranshaw provides the reliable support that keeps everything rocking.
Speaking to the audience, Rollins explains, "Music is one of the beautiful things of life. Maybe music can help, I don't know, but we have to try something." Music has a way of healing. This record helps.
Track Listing: Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Clifton Anderson: trombone; Stephen Scott: piano,
kalimba (2); Bob Cranshaw: electric bass; Perry Wilson: drums; Kimati Dinizulu: percussion.
Personnel: Without a Song; Global Warming; Introductions; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square;
Why Was I Born?; Where or When.
Jazz is a creative explosion of individual freedom and communication.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was a kid. My father had a music store.
The best live performance I ever attended was Kenny Garrett in Harlem, New York.
The first jazz record I bought was Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins.
My advice to new listeners is keep listening!