Please and Thank You

Sonny Rollins. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Sunday, October
22.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Sonny-Rollins-Web.jpgSonny Rollins played for two full hours
without a break on Sunday night, and he received three standing
ovations — one for walking onstage, one at the end of his regular
set, and another at the end of the second encore. Rollins seemed
happy with the commotion, pounding his fist to his chest and then
punching it in the air to get the crowd going. This was certainly
one of the best concerts of the year, and quite possibly one of the
best jazz concerts Santa Barbara — or anywhere else for that
matter — has ever seen. Rollins has some terrific new material and
a band that seems to fit him perfectly, loose and flowing like the
black jacket and signature bright red trousers he wore to the
show.

Rollins wasted no time getting into the songs from his new
studio album. And even for those who were not familiar with Sonny,
Please, which is at the moment only available through his Web site,
sonnyrollins.com, this was a blessing. The title track was the
second tune of the night, and it opened with an auspicious clavé
beat that Rollins and bassist Bob Cranshaw slowly transformed into
harmonically complex modal blues. It’s an unforgettable, driving
theme that sets Rollins up for blowing chorus after chorus of
perfectly inventive arpeggios. Next up was “Stairway to the Stars,”
a down-tempo number that Rollins said he remembered from his
childhood, which he claimed was “back in 1895.”

Rollins is not that old, but his best-known work, Saxophone
Colossus, did just celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year,
and it is an extraordinary piece of luck that we still have the man
himself in such joyous, inimitable form. With his white beard and
hair and heavy-framed black glasses, Rollins looks old, but the
music that springs from his horn continues to define eternal jazz
youth. He was especially spry on “Global Warming,” a kind of
calypso by way of Cape Town that has become his theme song in
recent years. With the crowd on its feet and clapping along,
Rollins strode to the edge of the stage and lowered the bell of his
horn toward the people, popping and bending rhythmic “ride” notes
on top of the band’s propulsive beat. This was an unforgettable
night, and Santa Barbara was suitably grateful, staying to the very
end and roaring with approval as Rollins finally left the
spotlight.

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