Friday, March 17, 2006

CD review: Sonny Rollins - Without a Song (The 9/11 Concert)

Without A Song (the 9/11 Concert)
recorded September 15, 2001

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Sonny Rollins is one of the giants of jazz and is the only surviving member whose contemporaries include John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker. For sure, there are lots of fantastic players around today, but none who are alive have the pedigree of Sonny Rollins. I had a chance to see him live about 15 years ago and it was an unbelieaveable experience. Rollins rich legacy of albums made between the 50s and 70s estabished and confirmed his legend, including The Bridge, Saxophone Colossus and Sonny Side Up.


Rollins was in his Manhattan apartment six blocks from Ground Zero during the 9/11 attacks, and was evacuated by rescue workers the following day, when his building lost power. I recall Nat Hentoff writing a piece about Rollins'’ evacuation in his back-page column in JazzTimes. Like many during that day and the following weeks, Rollins wondered whether to get back to the business of his life or withdraw. He had been booked to play this concert at the Berklee College of Music in Boston'’s Performance Center on Sept. 15th. His first thought was to cancel the performance, but his wife Lucille convinced him that he should leave town and do the show.

The band from this show included trombonist (and nephew) Clifton Anderson, bassist Bob Cranshaw, pianist Stephen Scott, African percussionist Kimati Dinizuli, and drummer Perry Wilson.

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Clifton Anderson

You can hear Sonny struggling at times, but this is coming from someone who had just turned 71 years old a week earlier. This album wouldn't necessarily convince someone hearig Rollins for the first time that he is held in such high esteem, but it's a fun, lively album, with very entertaining performing from the entire group. Trombonist Clifton Anderson stands out on the calypso influenced "Global Warming," the only Sonny original here and a touted answer to his famous "St. Thomas" from Saxophone Colossosus. Anderson absolutely cooks on the fast-paced "Why Was I Born?" Pianist Stephen Scott's playing is wonderful but some listeners will be distracted by his Keith Jarrett-like habit of singing along to his own playing. Thankfully, it's not terribly noticeable. Scott, 36, has been heralded as one of the most brilliant players of his generation, a cut above most.

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Stephen Scott

My favorite tracks include the first two tracks, and the last two. The fourth track, is a decent ballad, but I prefer Sonny Rollins best when the band turns it up a notch.

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Sonny Rollins

1: "Without A Song" 16:37
2: "Global Warming" 15:16
3: band introductions 0:59
4: "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" 10:57
5: "Why Was I Born?" 16:14
6: "Where or When" 12:20

If you're a fan of Rollins or his style of straight-ahead jazz, you would be hard pressed not to smile when you hear this live album, a swinging celebration of life. Not surprisingly, the album was the winner, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, at the 48th Grammy Awards(Feb 8, 2006.)

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