Sonny Rollins in Vienne (2008)

Performers: Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Clifton Anderson, trombone; Bobby Broom, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, elec. bass; Victor Lewis, drums; Kimati Dinizulu, percussion
Studio: Doxy/OLFO/Emarcy Records 0602517675483
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: DD 5.1 & PCM 2.0
No region code
Length: 76:48
Rating: *****

This is a fine concert with the legendary saxist, recorded on location in 2006 in a huge Roman amphitheater in Vienne, France, for an audience of over 7000 people. The program consists of five tunes: They Say It’s Wonderful, Global Warming, Sonny Please, I See Your Face Before Me, Don’t Stop the Carnival.  Each of the first four are over 13 minutes each, with plenty of time for in-depth solos, and the final tune (after Sonny’s intro which sounds like they are leaving the stage forthwith) continues for nearly 22 minutes – they really don’t want to stop the carnival! The solid front line of Sonny on the left and Clifton Anderson on trombone on the right is featured in most of the tunes.  Kimati Dinizulu’s conga work is complex and exciting, with the cameramen occasionally zeroing in on his ecstatic facial expressions while playing.  The almost endless spinning out of creative and interesting variations on tunes by Rollins are most impressive. Sometimes it seems the theme has been run into the ground, but then he picks up on an entirely different rhythmic and harmonic line and sails on for another several choruses.  I liked the opening Irving Berlin song the best, I think due to my familiarity with the melody.

The camera work is very creative as well, with multiple images and occasional use of tricky lens effects and special angles.  The shots are up close from different areas of the stage than one usually sees, giving the feeling of being right up there on the stage with Sonny.  Though shot in HD, the transfer isn’t that hi-res, but it is serviceable and the surround is good.  I had to raise the center channel level a mite to spotlight Rollins’ sax more than the 5.1 mix provided.

 – John Henry