Sonny Rollins April 5, 2008
By Glen Creason
It’s hard to find the words to give the towering figure of Sonny Rollins his due when it comes to making music with his saxophone, the instrument he has created miracles with for over a half century. That sax is truly the writing instrument of this great man’s genius, a blessed, brass cornucopia of ideas, emotions and musical notes that seems to never be exhausted. In the hands and mind of this perfect master melodies and musical ideas take on added levels of meaning and become journeys of discovery with no two the same. Now approaching 80, Sonny Rollins seems not to notice time’s winged chariot hurrying near and his performance at Cerritos on this night was stunning in its power, inventiveness and artistry for a man of any age. For the most part the large audience sat in awed reverence, merely nodding to the percussion and bass accompaniment as Rollins wasted no time in a ninety minute set of pure passion that inspired the band to heights worthy of playing alongside the colossus.
Opening with the title track from his latest “Sonny Please” Rollins played out front for near ten minutes before handing it over to trombonist Clifton Anderson. It was a straightforward narration, as straight as Odysseus’ path in the Odyssey, featuring layers of riffs, bottomed out by bass notes from the horn in a stream that came rushing past the melody and back again before you could catch your breath.
The sweet “Someday I’ll Find You” was as lyrical and hopeful as the title, spiced by a wonderful guitar break by Bobby Broom and an amazing drumscape created by Kimati Dinizulu. Rollins was a team player on this one, dodging in and out of the melody but finishing the piece after some tasty interplay with excellent new drummer Kobie (Kobe?) Watkins with the first of several exquisite finishes. At times he almost sounded like he was sampling Stan Getz as he caressed the melody.
The following “Nice Lady” was swinging with a calypso beat bouncing the sax on top of a song so accessible you could imagine it getting lots of requests on radio IF there was radio with that kind of good taste. Sonny strode toward the edge of the stage at its conclusion and gave some lucky fans the thrill of their lives as he peppered them with tasty notes by the bushel. Without any ado he came right back with the superb Duke Ellington tune “In a Sentimental Mood” which featured larger spaces between notes which just served to bring the lovely melody into perfect perspective. When bassist Bob Cranshaw finished a pulse thumping solo, Sonny launched into a five minute conclusion that was worth the price of admission. In those mere minutes he packed more excitement than most can manage in a full hour and a half. “Half as Much” sounded very much like his "Way Out West" material which seems right on since the composition is by Hank Williams but the old honky tonker never heard it done exactly like Sonny styled it on this night. Even country and western works beautifully with this band. The trademark “Why Was I Born” sort of answered its own question as the fully limbered up Maestro Rollins just stood like a great heavyweight champion, rocking back and forth as the golden notes poured from his horn. The Cerritos audience coaxed them out for a single encore of “the Blues” which was the perfect end to a truly great night of Jazz. The entire concert reminded you of the movie “Big Night” where the master chefs created a masterpiece called a “timpano” full of the most scrumptious delicacies, layered in precise measures to create an unforgettable feast.