Tenor saxophonist Sonny RollinsRecently, I had a conversation with a friend about you. Honestly, Mr. Rollins, it wasn't much of a conversation. My friend did most of the talking. I love the guy to death even though he’s opinionated. He said despite your vast discography and your many accomplishments you're prone to having off nights. That's not the first time I heard someone say that. Jazz critic Stanley Crouch made a similar claim in an article for the New Yorker magazine some years ago. At times, Crouch, comes across as a know-it-all bully. My friend and Crouch are full of crap. I pressed my friend to elaborate on his definition of an off night. Rather than explain, he wanted to change the subject.
I wish Mr. Crouch and my friend had come to your concert last night at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI. They would've had to eat their hats. It's mind boggling how at 80, you have the stamina of a prizefighter. I normally don't monitor the stats of jazz musicians. Your solos on "Global Warming" clocked in just under twenty-five minutes. I wonder if that set or broke some longstanding record. I liked when you walked to the edge of the stage and played hunched over. It looked as if you're pouring the music from your horn onto the people in the front row.
The three songs your band performed during the first set were lengthy, and sapped the audience's energy. During the intermission, they had a chance to recover. I guarantee there will be a lot of sore necks tomorrow morning. I thought you'd be more reserved during the last set, and would play a few ballads, but you picked up where you left off. I felt sorry for your drummer Kobie Watkins.
You took it easy on Watkins the first set, delegating most of the manual labor to bassist Bob Cranshaw and guitarist Bobby Broom. They played competently. The guy sitting next to me is a guitarist. I asked how he felt about Broom's solos. He disliked them. He pointed out Broom lacked taste. I didn't understand what he meant, and I didn't press him for an explanation. Broom is a solid guitarist, and I liked his latest album.”Monk Music". It almost made the cut for my ten favorite jazz albums of 2009.
Watkins shouldered the workload the second set. Mr. Rollins, you worked the drummer like a summer intern. You lit a fire under him, and he didn't melt. When you traded measures with Watkins on "Why I was Born," I figured the lad would have a tough time keeping up, but he maintained his composure. Watkins is a busy drummer like the great Elvin Jones was, and he has Jo Jones' finesse and work ethic. There was an ambulance waiting out front after the show. Someone remarked it was for the drummer. That tickled me. The last set was about you and the drummer. Cranshaw and Broom could've stayed in the dressing room. Nobody would've missed them. Mr. Rollins, unlike my friend and Crouch, I don't believe you're capable of having a bad night. You performance last night convinced me of that.