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He came out on stage ready to play! Took no prisoners. I saw him here (Umbria Jazz Fest) a few years ago and his performance was a bit erratic. He seemed to (relatively speaking now) ramble for long periods but then he would drop a bomb that would knock you right out of your seat. I also thought his rhythm section was pretty perfunctory, then.

This time he was much more consistant and just burned from the first note. I don't think there was a lag anytime in his performance. He was just great, and I felt there was an improvement in his rhythm section. For the life of me I don't know why he keeps Bob Cranshaw but the percussion player seemed to add some energy. The guitar player played extended solos consisting entirely of single-line ideas and, I don't think, once mixed is textures up with chording. While he did play some good ideas, overall I found it a bit, uh, uninteresting. There are so many absolutely killin' rhythm-section musicians, for the life of me I don't know why Sonny doesn't use them. And his 'bone player could easily be replaced with a more dynamic player.

To reiterate, Sonny burned and it was a joy, as well, to see this man at his age perform like he did. It was also touching to match up what I read about his plight and trek down hundreds of stairs in darkness on 9/11 with seeing how physically hindered his walking is. That must have been quite a painful and frightening trip. What a big heart!!!
 

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He keeps his rhythm section because these guys are his friends and I imagine he needs friends at his age. Bob if he's still playing the electric bass isn't my first choice either, but back in the bridge period when he first started playing with Bob he could play the double bass pretty darn good. Of course now I agree he's a yawn to listen to.

As far as the t-bone player I thought he should have tried a different instrument as a side kick. Perhaps and alto or trumpet or even another tenor that would be even more fun. A cutting session like he use to record back in the 50's and 60's.

I agree Sonny needs to play with other bands and mix it up a little.

How would you rank Sonny's chops compared to say back in the 80's.
 

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Hey Gary. Sounds like Sonny burned. In answer to your question about his rhythm section and bone player... I believe Sonny is quite sentimental about continuing to use his long time friends in his band, and not just that, but he also believes that they are still killin' it musically.
I got this opinion from Sonny's own mouth - a video/podcast on his website - can't find it anymore though. Perhaps the friendship is more valuable to him than having a band of young lions. All the same- it would be awesome to see him play with such a band.
 

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So glad to hear this. Booked to see/hear Sonny in London in November. I'm trying not to get my hopes ridiculously high but, crikey, the expectation is almost killing me already..
 

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The 'bone player is Sonny's nephew and I think he has a lot to do with managing the business since Sonny's wife died. That said he has been playing with Sonny for a long time now and the last time I saw them he was pretty good and he and Sonny traded solos very nicely and he was the only player in the band who was really engaging with Sonny, except, maybe the percussionist. The percussion player seems to be an essential element to the dynamics of the whole though.

I was disappointed with Bob Cranshaw, this is a year or so back, but he was so far back in the mix that I couldn't fairly assess what he was doing, even his solos were lost. The guitar player seemed to be at the wrong gig. The fact is that it's Sonny's show, if he is feeling strong then watch out.
 

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I liked the Trombone player and the guitarist, loved the percussionist and the drummer wasn't bad but Cranshaw ruined it for me. Not only are his tone and feel awful (and his lines are straight up boring.) but the soundguy had the bass louder than everything in the mix. I've got plenty of friends who I'd never hire for a gig if they couldn't cut it or were wrong for the gig. That doesn't mean we can't be friends still.
Sonny was great when he played but seemed really tired (maybe just that night?) and never took more than a chorus or two. I'm glad I got to see him but it would have been better with pretty much anybody but Cranshaw.
 

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littlemanbighorn said:
I liked the Trombone player and the guitarist, loved the percussionist and the drummer wasn't bad but Cranshaw ruined it for me. Not only are his tone and feel awful (and his lines are straight up boring.) but the soundguy had the bass louder than everything in the mix. I've got plenty of friends who I'd never hire for a gig if they couldn't cut it or were wrong for the gig. That doesn't mean we can't be friends still.
Sonny was great when he played but seemed really tired (maybe just that night?) and never took more than a chorus or two. I'm glad I got to see him but it would have been better with pretty much anybody but Cranshaw.

I saw him in April and thought Sonny was great, but the band was a little....boring. For me Cranshaw wasn't the problem. I really didn't like what Bobby Broom (guitar)was playing although I have heard him sound good on albums. I think if the rhythm section put away the chairs and stood up it would sound better.
 

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When I saw him in the early 90's I remember wishing that he had just played solo. I t was if the band and he were playing in separate rooms.
 

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I caught Sonny at the Ottawa Jazz Festival two years ago and he smoked. That a man his age could put as much energy into his performance,I mean he was dancing around like a dervish. My wife looked at me and asked if I was going to be like that at his age. Heck, I'm not like that now. Got to admit though, he was the whole show. When he would lay back and let the group take it there would just be this dull feeling untill he came back in. Funny, I'm right in the middle of reading ' Open Sky ' by Eric Nisenson, Sonny's biography. He talks a lot about what it takes for him to improvise and apparently the less comping and note feeding he gets the more freedom he feels he has to go with whatever flow is in his head. Maybe the lame band is just a way for him free himself without appearing on stage solo?
 

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I heard that Bob Cranshaw had some kind of injury or something that didn't allow him to play upright bass anymore, which is why he picked up the electric. Of course, he's had 35 years to learn how to play the electric, so no excuses, I guess.

When I saw Sonny, my experience was a lot like everybody else's. Sonny was great. The percussionist was pretty good. Everyone else was ok, at best. For $50 a ticket, I really wish he would put together a better band, or maybe play with some of the other remaining greats, like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, etc. They get together to play, but Sonny never plays with them, even though he's one of the few players on the planet who can, on his best nights, blow every single one of them out of the water (supposing music were a competition).

When I saw him, every one of his solos was at least 20 minutes long, and while most of what he played knocked me to the floor, there was a lot of rambling. Maybe there would be less of that if he played with a rhythm section that was closer to his own level.
 

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Sonny can and has rambled for years when soloing. It's a beautiful thing when he's going off and really locked in tight, but it's a tough thing to keep that going.

Sonny's cool, but for me he always lacked the ability to express the dark side of life. To me he'd be a more complete musician or person if he could play something gut wrenching or blood curdling. He doesn't seem to have the serious side to him, or least it doesn't come out in his music.
 

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heath said:
Sonny's cool, but for me he always lacked the ability to express the dark side of life. To me he'd be a more complete musician or person if he could play something gut wrenching or blood curdling. He doesn't seem to have the serious side to him, or least it doesn't come out in his music.
I kind of know what you're saying but i do feel that the "dark side" element is there sometimes: on ballads, certainly, and at quick tempos on some of the earlier stuff eg the Tour de Force album. I kind of agree that it's an aspect of his musical personality that I wish he'd explored more over the years. But maybe he sees music as just an expression of his essential self and if he doesn't feel that darkness in life, he just doesn't play it?
 

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Heath - Oy! Have you heard Sonny's "A Night At The Village Vanguard"?
Or perhaps "East Broadway Rundown"?
 

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I've got all the classic recordings that sonny has made and yes those two albums are in my library.

I can't call those dark albums, they are certainly more interesting than a lot of his other work and if you throw in Sonny on Impulse that's another one where he digs a little deeper. Perhaps the avant-garde stuff he was playing with Coleman Hawkins, that came off a little demented and disturbed.

Still I get the feeling that Sonny has a different outlook on life that is a little more optimistic, less intense, and in it for the long haul. Not like some of his comrades that played like the lived in went down in flames.
 

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Wow....some of you folks have no respect for some of the co founders per se of jazz. I was at Sonny's show in Madison at the Overture Center and backing Sonny was the same section most of you are giving bad reviews. We can appreciate the same amount of rythmic flexibility in original recordings but not live? Actually the section broke up some of the bore of Sonny's 45 minute solos. As far as the bone player, I loved his sound. He had so much expression and the sound just filled the hall. I'm a sax player but i actually enjoyed his solos more than Sonny's. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Sonny, hes the reason i went, but i enjoyed the rest more. I also enjoyed the percussionist's conga skills.
 

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Darkside?

I suspect Sonny has lived plenty on the "darkside" that would scare the living bones out of most of us. I think that's plenty to ask of one person. But, maybe he should re-live all of that purely to entertain some people.
 

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blujazze said:
Wow....some of you folks have no respect for some of the co founders per se of jazz.


I don't agree with your position, I think some negative things were said however I do not believe that the people who had those positions where disrespecting Sonny Rollins. As sax players you tend to be really picky about other sax players even legends because you are more aware of what is going on and how it is done than the average joe in the audience, and also what could be done in place of this or that. Many of the opinions above are personal preference's and as such I don't think you can construe someone not liking a particular player, or instrument as opposed to a different player or instrument disrespectful. Jay.
 

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Swampcabbage said:
I suspect Sonny has lived plenty on the "darkside" that would scare the living bones out of most of us. I think that's plenty to ask of one person. But, maybe he should re-live all of that purely to entertain some people.
Your completely right Sonny's been around the block a few times and especially when he was younger and trying to get himself straight. I wouldn't want anyone to go down that road for the sake of their music.

Straight and clean musicians can play the darker side of life though. Look at Trane post addiction and before his addiction. His music took on a very serious tone after he was clean. With the screams, barks, desperate cries, and so on it's something that Sonny doesn't seem to want. With Trane it was like you sometimes got dropped off in a pit of flames and warped into a nightmare of another world. I've never been taken into another world with Sonny's playing. He's a master in every sense of the word, he just walks to a different beat.
 

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blujazze said:
Wow....some of you folks have no respect for some of the co founders per se of jazz.
You could hardly call Sonny one of the founders of Jazz. Since Sonny was born in 1930 and jazz has been around since (at the very latest) 1910, that doesn't really add up. Do the Math.
It's not a lack of respect. I have a deep respect for Sonny, but when I pay more than $75 a pop for a pair of tickets to someone I become more critical. So... when Cranshaw makes me wish I were hearing a first-year college electric bass player (or preferably an upright player.) instead I get unhappy. The soundman at the venue didn't help either, having the bass way louder than anyone else on stage I get downright irritable.
Bob Cranshaw has done some great playing, too. Lee Morgan's Sidewinder is a killer record. But at this point he doesn't just not do it for me, he makes me angry that he's likely making way more than I'll ever make for a single gig when he's clearly not playing at the level that one would expect with a living legend's band charging $75 a pop.
The only other times i've spent that kind of money for tickets were John Zorn's Masada and Tom Waits. Both left me feeling joyous and wanting more. That show left me feeling, "Well I guess I can cross off seeing Sonny Rollins live of the list. "
 
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