Sonny Rollins

Road Shows, Vol. 2

Tenor sax titan Sonny Rollins turned 81 on Sept. 7, and by way of celebrating the event has released some tunes from last year’s birthday “party.” Four of these date from NYC’s Beacon Theater’s September concert, while two are from a Japanese tour a month later. Rollins’ highly developed lyrical sensibilities show no signs of waning, and the opening tune, “They Say It’s Wonderful,” features a magnificent minute-long rubato intro by Rollins on which he teases his way into the tune before being joined by guitarist Russell Malone; bassist Bob Cranshaw; drummer Kobie Watkins; and percussionist Sammy Figueroa. In 1961 Rollins returned to music with a piano-less quartet that featured guitarist Jim Hall, who joins the rhythm section here for an exquisitely rendered “In a Sentimental Mood.” A surprise guest—famed free jazzer, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman—joins Rollins, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes for a killer workout on “Sonnymoon for Two.” Trumpeter Roy Hargrove joins the group from the opening track on a lovely “I Can’t Get Started” and an uptempo rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Raincheck.” This second volume, which seems to be part of a well-planned series of live recordings, ends with a snippet of “St. Thomas,” Rollins’ famous calypso. The “saxophone colossus” is still taking chances and still nailing it!