I did not attend Sonny Rollins’ Carnegie Hall concert last month and had not heard or read much about it until a review by Francis Davis in the current issue of The Village Voice. Davis calls it “this year’s be-there-or-be-square event” and gives it a thorough going-over, reporting the good and the better; unsurprisingly, there seems to have been no bad. Rollins, who is seventy-seven, performed with his current band. He also played with a pianoless trio, as he did at Carnegie Hall fifty years ago. The bassist this time around was Christian McBride, four decades younger than Rollins, the drummer Roy Haynes, five years older. Here is a section of Davis’s review.
For me, the mock-aria from South Pacific–an unlikely vehicle for anyone but Rollins–was the evening’s glory. He and Haynes didn’t exactly trade fours on it for 10 minutes running, and they didn’t exactly not; their exchanges followed the rules of conversation, not metrics. Analytical rather than discursive or ecstatic, Rollins treated the melody to an endless series of variations, slowing down his vibrato and dropping into a subtone to summon up the ghosts of both Enzio Pinza and Coleman Hawkins, all the while moving in and out of tempo within phrases shaped to Haynes’s elegant brushstrokes. Even those who might have wished for conventional improvised choruses had to agree that it was magic.
Davis reports that Rollins has a new CD in the works incorporating recently-discovered trio tracks recorded at the 1957 Carnegie concert with new trio performances. To read all of his Voice review, go here.