sonny side of the street

So I'm finally stepping up as a sibling, doing something deep and grand: Flying my older brother Leslie, who happens to play tenor saxophone, to New York so that he can sit tomorrow night in the seventh row of the Beacon Theater, at the feet of Sonny Rollins. The occasion? Leslie's 50th and Sonny' 80th birthdays.

No saxophonist should walk through life without at least once listening in Rollins's presence. Hell, no human should. There is so much spiritual presence embedded in Rollins's sound, so much intellectual wonder invested in how he treats a melody, so much musical history referenced in his solos, and yet more--philosophy, politics, and a sense of social purpose--reflected in simply how he conducts himself on and off the stage.

Here's an interview I did with Rollins for The Village Voice, during which we dealt mostly with extra-musical affairs, including for instance why music is an appropriate response to terror. I'd also suggest this lovely piece, full of reminiscences of the Harlem in which Rollins grew up, by my colleague Marc Myers in The Wall Street Journal. 

August 9, 2010 10:17 AM | | Comments (0)


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Evan Christopher Django à la Créole (Lejazzetal) 

Clarinetist Evan Christopher, a California native, moved to New Orleans in 1994. In his frequent duets with Tom McDermott, and as a standout member of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his erudite and personalized approach to traditional jazz commands attention.

Dr. Michael White Blue Crescent (Basin Street) 

Long before the floods that devastated his city, clarinetist Michael White wrestled with the challenge of preserving New Orleans traditional jazz without embalming it. He sought to write tunes built on time-honored local forms that spoke to the here-and-now. But Dr. White struggled to compose anything at all during the past three years--until late 2007, when original music began pouring forth.

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Red Earth: A Malian Journey (DDB Records/Emarcy/Universal) Despite her place in the top rank of American jazz vocalists and her crossover success, Dee Dee Bridgewater has often felt displaced. "I'm always trying to fit in somewhere," she once told me. This new disc, which finds Ms. Bridgewater and her band in collaboration with a cast of Malian musicians and singers, is no further pose:
David Murray Black Saint Quartet featuring Cassandra Wilson Sacred Ground (Justin Time) 
Long among the strongest, most adventurous reedmen in jazz,
Joe Zawinul Brown Street (Heads Up) 
The list of great Viennese composers must include Zawinul--same for the honor roll of jazz innovators.
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