Sonny Rollins – Road Shows, Vol. 3 – Doxy/OKeh 88843 04998 2 (2001-2012), 72:52 ****:
(Sonny Rollins – tenor sax; Clifton Anderson – trombone; Stephen Scott – piano; Bobby Broom or Peter Bernstein – electric guitar; Bob Cranshaw – bass; Perry Wilson, Victor Lewis, Kobie Watkins, Steve Jordan – drums; Kimati Dinizulu & Sammy Figueroa – percussion)
Sonny Rollins has issued three volumes of Road Shows, and each has a different theme or focus. Vol. 1 spanned 27 years and included some tracks recorded by a fan. Vol. 2 covered shows in 2010, when Sonny celebrated his 80th birthday. His latest issue is an overview of concerts recorded in the new millennium.
There are only six tracks on Vol. 3, and with the exception of the closer encore tune, “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” the shortest track exceeds eight minutes. We get a chance here to experience Sonny at his best, when he can really stretch out on his solos.
“Biji” opens the CD with a catchy riff expanded with a lightly muscular trombone solo by Clifton Anderson. Bob Cranshaw’s steady bass provides the underpinning for the horns. Mid track finds Sonny blowing, beginning from a slow blues and steadily upping the intensity. “Someday I’ll Find You” from Noel Coward is taken at waltz time. Instead of a piano, Rollins is primarily backed by his guitarist at the time, Bobby Broom. Broom gets an extended feature before Sonny does what he does best-taking the melody off in different directions, both sublime and highly emotional.
“Patanjali” is highly percussive. Kobie Watkins and Sammy Figueroa make a potent mix on drums and conga, while Sonny and Clifton cook up a musical stew. Sonny takes lead and Clifton riffs off Rollins’ passionate blowing. “Solo Sonny” highlights Rollins’ greatest feat, taking us on a solo journey with pithy musical quotes and changes in tone and tempo. It’s a wild ride trying to process Sonny, and bears repeated visits.
The longest track by far, at over twenty three minutes, is “Why Was I Born?” from Kern and Hammerstein. It is an extended improvisation with long solo choruses, and sax with percussion excursions. It’s best to close your eyes, clear your mind, and enjoy the ride. Steve Jordan’s drumming provides the propulsion that the band members lock onto.
Rollins’ latest 2012 band is featured on the closer encore, “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” Caribbean rhythms can be found as a steady constant in Sonny’s repertoire during a large part of his career. Its infectious melody helps balance the more intense extended pieces found on Vol. 3.
As Sonny’s touring schedule has been curtailed lately there is hope that there are more volumes of road show performances to follow.
TrackList: Biji, Someday I’ll Find You, Patanjali, Solo Sonny, Why Was I Born?, Don’t Stop the Carnival