Sonny Rollins April 8, 2006
The Colossus Comes to Cerritos: Sonny Rollins at the Center
By Glen Creason
My jazz-aficionado pal David tells me that there were youngsters lingering at the stage door, awaiting a chance to touch the hem of Sonny Rollins’ garment after Saturday’s knockout show at the Performing Arts Center. Such news brings hope and happiness since this gentleman visiting Cerritos is a rare and precious privilege that certainly should be passed on to the generations. It was a tremendous coup to book the legendary saxophonist; in my humble estimation the greatest living artist in America since August Wilson and Arthur Miller left us. Yet, to hear what the great man did with this opportunity made it all the more valuable to everybody who loves music, especially real Jazz fans. Someday, these kids will tell their grandkids they heard the saxophone colossus play his horn with the reverence of one who has sat at the feet of the oracle. In this case I just cannot exaggerate his skills; they are way beyond my words.
Numbers and names are not that important on a night like this but Maestro Rollins is on the far side of seventy with a reputation chiseled on the stone tablets of Jazz lore. Yet, true to his calling he continues to share his genius, to explore new avenues and to leave indelible marks of inspiration in the hearts and minds of his listeners. On this evening he hobbled out like a man of his age but was transformed when he put the tarnished old horn to his lips. Launching into “Change Partners” to start, Rollins demonstrated early that he was ready to expand our musical universe. True to the man, his horn is not miked above the sextet and his soloing certainly is not the only thing happening on stage. Clifton Anderson’s trombone was a perfect counterpoint to the main man and Bobby Broom’s pure jazz guitar played a literal answer to the Rollins amazing sonic voyages. On “Someday I’ll Find You” each member played team ball with Sonny taking on Michael Jordanesque moves within the concept. A marathon “Global Warming” introduced the oft-sampled Caribbean flavor into the mix with the first of much delicious interplay between superb African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu and the mercurial sax musings of the Colossus. The improvisation comes from a deep well of genius but the awesome energy and passion shown on this night had to be attributed to the stars being aligned just right.
A couple of songs were not easily identified but with this man sticking a name on tune is like saying he traveled on a road. That road might be a dazzling turn up the Costa Brava in a Ferrari Enzo Coupe at 120 miles an hour. Duke Ellington’s masterpiece “In a Sentimental Mood” was played sweetly by Rollins with a solid melodic center that he ventured away from sparingly to gorgeous results. The man’s physical gifts were another story and when he locked horns (literally) with Kimati Dinizulu on “Don’t Stop the Carnival” he just grabbed second and third and more winds that resulted in incredible discoveries. You could not say each solo was a painting of notes but more like the Bayeux Tapestry, full of intricacies and beauty at levels deep within the music. An added bonus seemed to be Sonny Rollins’ obvious satisfaction with the hall, the sound and the appreciative audience who he graced with an all-out blast through an encore of “Tenor Madness.” When he was done he left no note unturned and nary a musical regret for the full house that shook the rafters in thanks. It was a triumph worth keeping in the vaults. When the youngsters at the stage door shook the man’s hand hours later they were pressing the flesh with a bona fide living legend.