Toronto Jazz Festival Day One: SONNY ROLLINS


It's not often you get the chance to see a living legend on stage and that is, without a doubt, the status that Sonny Rollins carries with him these days. Rollins isn't the kind of player to rest on those laurels though. If there was one thing evident in his playing last night it was a continuing sense of exploration and a monster work ethic.

With his horn seeming to be sort of plugged into his iconic visage, Rollins paced the stage, interacting with his band and the crowd, jutting around and almost dancing during the bouncy calypso (not St. Thomas) that he closed the set with.

The opening was a relentlessly rhythmic and repetitive piece that showcased the eclectic instrumentation that Rollins favours these days including a conga player I have yet to identify (it was not Kimati Dinizulu who he regularly plays with), Bob Cranshaw on electric bass and Clifton Anderson on trombone. While Cranshaw's bass sounded driving, clean and modern off the top of the show during this searching, almost trance like tune once the program turned to standards like Irving Berlin's They Say It's Wonderful and Ellington's In A Sentimental Mood it was suddenly incongruent.

The conga player mercifully laid low during the Berlin, but found many ways to shoe-horn in jarring triangle riffs, tambourine hits and rhythms on the conga during the Ellington that pulled focus throughout, especially from lovely trombone work of the capable Anderson.

The most striking element of the evening had to be Rollins magnificent tone. He remains singular sounding, with perhaps a shadow of the influence of his idol Coleman Hawkins in his lower register. His sound is one of the reasons he is one of the greats and it is still there in all its glory.

The crowd gave Rollins at least a partial standing ovation upon his entering and then again after every number during the concert. He seemed unphased throughout, focussing on the task at hand not speaking or introducing the tunes, acknowledging that what had just transpired was something special only as he left the stage, fist raised triumphantly, as if in both solidarity and victory.

For more information on Sonny Rollins visit his website

1 comment :

  1. OH saw him once in concert; definitely a legend.. what great photos you take.


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