main: December 2010 Archives

A quarterly magazine takes some time till publication. So here's my piece in the Winter issue of JAZZIZ, inspired by Sonny Rollins and, sort of, by my brother Leslie.

Blu Notes

Winter 2010

Sonny Skies

by Larry Blumenfeld

Pull quote: "It was a metaphysical experience, not a musical experience. You had to be there."

It was the best thing I'd ever done for my older brother Leslie -- a seventh-row seat to Sonny Rollins 80th birthday concert at New York's Beacon Theater in September. Back in the '70s, when I was listening to Billy Joel, Leslie was into modern jazz. I couldn't wrap my head around the music he listened to then -- Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Rollins. A few years later, while he was off studying music at college, I grew to appreciate those LPs enough to steal them before heading off for my sophomore year at Boston University.

Though he earns his living in computers in Jacksonville, Florida, Leslie remains a dedicated reedman, playing on weekends in wine bars and restaurants. (I like him best on tenor sax, Rollins' instrument of choice.) But he had never heard Rollins in person. So with Leslie turning 50 and Rollins turning 80, I figured it was time to get the former in front of the latter. Who knew how many more chances there'd be? I sprung for concert and plane tickets.

Rollins no longer performs in clubs. The Beacon show was his first in New York in three years, making it the sort of hot ticket rare these days in jazz. Rollins was billed with his working quintet, plus trumpeter Roy Hargrove, guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Christian McBride and "surprise special guests." Since Rollins' last New York concert, at Carnegie Hall, featured him in trio with McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, I suspected Haynes would be among the surprises. At least I hoped so. At Carnegie, Haynes and Rollins had maintained a musical dialogue loose as a barbershop conversation. For all his harmonic genius, Rollins' rhythmic prowess (and an adventurousness grounded in that ability) has been just as elemental to the brilliance of his epic solos. Haynes' driving and utterly organic brand of swing time -- which has anchored music by Louis Armstrong through Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and today's best -- is the perfect complement. I couldn't wait for another taste of that hookup. I happened to interview Haynes for an article about jazz families the day before the Rollins show. He confirmed that he'd be on the date. "And there's someone else, too," he said, eyes agleam. "Not gonna say who, though."

December 12, 2010 10:58 PM |

I've been back from Barcelona for more than a week, but it seems like yesterday.

If Barcelona is one of the world's most alluring cities--and it is--its Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival must be counted as one of the world's most distinctive and complete jazz events.

The audacious architectural achievements of Gaudí, the searching experimentalism of early works at the Picasso Museum, and the unexpected culinary inventions (what, for instance, Catalan chef Isma Prados can do with tomatoes, strawberries, and sardines) all figure into a novel context for great and adventurous music, and for concert-going in general. The "tenderness sutras," as he calls them, offered by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and his terrific quartet seemed especially radiant there, and both the intimacy and the ostentation of Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés's music were perfectly matched by his setting, the Palau de Música. Not to mention the graciousness of artistic director Joan Anton Cararach, a former music critic himself, his exceedingly lovely wife, Doan Manfugas, whose deeply felt ideas about music owe to her early training in Havana's finest conservatories, and the suave General Director Tito Ramoneda, whose dream of a cultural event linking his city with both New York and Rio de Janeiro seems just crazy enough to work.

December 3, 2010 12:43 PM |

New Orleans



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