Sunday, June 21, 2009


Sonny, I promised myself Friday I would not write at all this weekend. For weeks now I’ve been swamped. I wrote an article about Alexander Zonjic. I interviewed pianist Bob James, classic flutist Ervin Monroe, and bassist John Clayton. I posted a blog on “Doin’ the D", Zonjic new album, which will hit the streets this Tuesday. I also reviewed “Brother to Brother, an album Clayton and his younger brother Jeffery released last year.I’m experiencing writer’s fatigue. I thought it best I chill this weekend.

This morning, however, I reneged on my promise. I played you’re newly reissued album "Reel Life” which Concord Music Group just released this month along with classic albums by your former colleagues MilesDavis, John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. I received your album two weeks ago. I played it today, thinking it would keep my mind off writing. I was wrong.

An hour after listening to “Reel Life”, I was jotting down notes about the tracks that kept my attention. Do you remember making “Reel Life”? You’ve been on the scene over six decades. I wonder if you remember all the albums you made. “Reel Time” was born on August 1982. That makes the album 27-year-old. The album cover is cartoon-like.

At first glance, it appears you’re posed on a huge tire with your arms stretched out, holding your tenor in your left hand. You’re actually sitting on a stereo reel. You employed two, guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. I barely noticed them. You were the star player, indeed. , I finally understand why for decades you’ve been jazz’s reigning king of improvisations.

On the opener and “Sonny Side U” you played some smooth jazz licks. On the latter number, for example, you somehow made your tenor squeak at different intervals of the compositions. I hummed melodies to those cuts damn near all day.

On "Solo Reprise”, you played 2 minute and 17 second of uninterrupted improvisation, taking your own sweet time through the changes, adding nuances here and there for effect. I wish you had played longer. I guess the great jazz musician--which you’re undoubtedly are--keep listeners wanting more. Jazz fans are a greedy lot, inded.

Finally, what would a Sonny Rollin’s album be without you playing a ballad? You only had room to perform one on this album, “My Little Brown Book”. That’s okay. I guess playing the ballad allowed the band an opportunity to catch their breath. You served the tune with such warmth my body went numb.

“Reel Life” is the type of eclectic album that cannot be pigeonholed. The album is part funky; part smooth jazz, and part bop. This album was exceptional enough for me to renege on a promise, which I never do. Now that I commented on your album, I can take the rest of the weekend off.
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