JAZZ / Sound of speed: Phil Johnson reviews Sonny Rollins at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Tuesday 19 October 1993
Such heroic tales came to mind at the beginning of Sunday's show, when Rollins opened at full-tilt on a version of 'Falling in Love with Love' that threatened to continue all night. In fact, the solo clocked in at a modest 12 minutes but so relentless was the flow of ideas, so perfect the co- ordination of hands, mind and tenor saxophone and so strong the resulting sound, that it served as a potent reminder of what a master Rollins, at 63, still is. Playing at break-neck speed, he encapsulated 50 years of jazz tenor sax styles into a series of increasingly oblique assaults on the melody. If the rest of the performance never quite lived up to such a beginning, it was easy to forgive; we had at least seen what he could do.
Unlike his peers Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman or the later John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins has not made a music of his own. Instead, he remains, as almost the last of his line, an improviser who can improvise on pretty much anything providing he doesn't have to compose it first. He once made a convincing jazz vehicle out of 'How Are Things in Glockomorra?' and Sunday's version of his old favourite 'Tennessee Waltz' was a true classic, with Jerome Harris's country-and-western guitar, Clifton Anderson's New Orleans trombone harmonies and Rollins's own honking R&B sax making a keening lament out of the corny melody.
This was more of a true band performance than his Palladium date of last year, with the leader content to pace his efforts by letting the sidemen play too. An aggressively shrill sound balance compromised the overall effect and toward the end of the second half evidently unsettled Rollins, who, while keeping up an impeccable smile for the audience, looked daggers at both sound-crew and band. After bringing another epic solo to an end, he announced his final number in a halting, breathless voice that made him seem, at last, all too human. As if to compensate, he followed the inevitable 'St Thomas' calypso with a final shuddering coda against a thrumming crescendo from the band that interpolated a dozen quotes into a dizzying flight of fancy. He is certainly slowing up, and there were no long, unaccompanied set-pieces, but even at idling speed Rollins remains a champion and, in fellow saxophonist David Murray's phrase, the last of the hip-men.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassing leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories