Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol. 1

Sonny Rollins’ latest CD, Road Shows, Vol. 1, has gained loads of critical acclaim and landed on more than a jazz critics’ year-end lists.

sonny-rollins1And for good reason: The disc captures the great saxophonist in full flight, playing at the peak of his considerable powers.

Click here to read my review, published in Las Vegas City Life.

Or read the text, below:


Sonny Rollins

Road Shows, Vol. 1


It’s not overstating the case to call Sonny Rollins one of the last living jazz giants. Even on the down slide to 80, the tenor saxophonist continues to roam the earth, playing every solo as if it were his last, threatening to turn every show into an event, the kind where listeners are likely to learn something new about the art of jazz, and discover something unexpected about the playing of a monster improviser who has been thrilling audiences since making his breakthrough in the early ’50s with the likes of Miles and Monk.

That said, too many of Rollins’ studio recordings have been subpar – failed attempts to recreate the live vibe. Not so with Road Shows, Vol. 1, culled in part from concert recordings made by Rollins devotee Carl Smith. Here, in live performances caught between 1980 and 2007, Rollins absolutely romps. His brawny horn digs deep during a long, unaccompanied section in “Easy Living” and turns alternately tender and questioning for a bracing version of “Some Enchanted Evening,” with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, performed last year at Carnegie Hall.

He stretches to the breaking point on his signature blues tune, “Tenor Madness,” rocks a calypso groove on his “Nice Lady,” and opens up the ballad “More Than You Know,” even slipping in a snippet of a Christmas melody. Undeniably brilliant.

Bootsy Collins — Making Music to Support the Soldiers

Funk/R&B bass monster Bootsy Collins (Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown, etc.) recently volunteered his time and talent to put together a recording, the Fallen Soldiers Memorial CD, designed to fund the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Museum.

Collins, as he recounts in the January issue of Bass Player magazine, grew excited about contributing to the cause after befriending a man, Keith Maupin, whose son, Matt, was killed while serving in Iraq. The bassist decided to help raise funds for Cincinnati’s Yellow Ribbon Support Center.

And then he opted to to make an even bigger effort.

“That’s when my eyes and heart were opened to what is really going on,” the Cincinatti native told Bass Player. “I had been hung up on the War issue like most creative people. Then, when I separated the War from the Soldier and from the Families, I began to see the people who are being killed and hurt. These are people just like you and me.”

The museum’s purpose, as was explained to Collins: “This would be a place where soldiers’  families could go to talk and help heal, relate to people who have the same experiences, and reflect over the material things that tte Museum has collected on behalf of the family. This special place would honor all the fallen soldiers and bring together those who have let go of their sons and duaghters to face that ultimate sacrifice.”

The upshot: Collins, through his Bootzilla Productions, Fallen Soldiers Memorial CDtapped Charlie Daniels, George Duke, Blair Carmen and other artists for the project.

The album was officially released on Thanksgiving Day, and reportedly is available online through Bootsy Collins, the Yellow Ribbon Support Center (see links above), iTunes and several retail outlets. There’s talk of a related DVD to come in February.

Grammy Noms: Good Love for Radiohead; Plant/Krauss; and jazz noms

Yes, some encouraging news came out of Wednesday night’s hourlong Grammy nominations shindig on television.

I mean, aside from the fact that two of the year’s most impressive releases — Radiohead’s superb In Rainbows, and Raising Sand, the intriguing Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration — were actually nominated for Album of the Year honors (along with a pretty good Coldplay CD and hyped releases by New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne and R&B artist Ne-Yo).

Krauss and Plant also picked up a Record of the Year nom, for “Please Read the Letter,” and three other noms. Radiohead nabbed five noms, too.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there’s a possibility that presentations of jazz and classical awards, typically given short shrift during the Grammy show, will be recorded, packaged with performances and offered to public television and cable outlets.

About time.

Quite a few first-rate musicians were nominated in the jazz categories. The “contemporary jazz” category, thankfully, includes several artists – Randy Brecker and John McLaughlin, in particular – whose music has little in common with the bland wallpaper sounds associated with “contemporary jazz” radio.

Here’s the jazz list, courtesy of

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

  • Randy In Brasil
    Randy Brecker
    [MAMA Records]
  • Floating Point
    John McLaughlin
    [Abstract Logix]
  • Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley
    (Various Artists)
    Gregg Field & Tom Scott, producers
    [Concord Jazz]
  • Miles From India
    (Various Artists)
    Bob Belden, producer
    [4Q/Times Square Records]
  • Lifecycle
    Yellowjackets Featuring Mike Stern
    [Heads Up International]

Best Jazz Vocal Album

Imagina: Songs Of Brasil
Karrin Allyson
[Concord Jazz]

  • Breakfast On The Morning Tram
    Stacey Kent
    [Blue Note]
  • If Less Is More…Nothing Is Everything
    Kate McGarry
    [Palmetto Records]
  • Loverly
    Cassandra Wilson
    [Blue Note]
  • Distances
    Norma Winstone (Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing)

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

· Be-Bop
Terence Blanchard, soloist
Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
[Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

  • Seven Steps To Heaven
    Till Brönner, soloist
    Track from: The Standard (Take 6)
    [Heads Up International]
  • Waltz For Debby
    Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
    Track from: The New Crystal Silence
    [Concord Records]
  • Son Of Thirteen
    Pat Metheny, soloist
    Track from: Day Trip
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Be-Bop
    James Moody, soloist
    Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
    [Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

  • The New Crystal Silence
    Chick Corea & Gary Burton
    [Concord Records]
  • History, Mystery
    Bill Frisell
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
    Brad Mehldau Trio
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Day Trip
    Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Standards
    Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio
    [Fuzzy Music]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Appearing Nightly
    Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band
  • Act Your Age
    Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
  • Symphonica
    Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra
    [Blue Note]
  • Blauklang
    Vince Mendoza
    [Act Music and Vision (AMV)]
  • Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard
    The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
    [Planet Arts Recordings]

Best Latin Jazz Album

  • Afro Bop Alliance
    Caribbean Jazz Project
    [Heads Up International]
  • The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter
    Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band
    [Half Note Records]
  • Song For Chico
    Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
  • Nouveau Latino
    Nestor Torres
    [Diamond Light Records]
  • Marooned/Aislado
    Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates
    [Picaro Records]

Bear Creek: The Afterglow

I’m still feeling the extra-sensory afterglow of the great music – and serene outdoors setting – I experienced at the Bear Creek Music & Art Festival, last month at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak.

One of the stars of the fest was a guy who wasn’t even officially on the bill. I’m talking about north Florida homeboy Derek Trucks. I’ve been watching and listening to the slide-guitar wizard since he was all of 11 years old or so, and making semi-regular treks from Jacksonville (with his dad/manager chaperoning) to play Skipper’s Smokehouse. Back then, I interviewed Derek several times for the Tampa Tribune, and I wrote a short feature on the six-string wunderkind for Guitar World magazine.

Was that the first story on Derek in a national mag? Not sure. But I do remember being very annoyed at how heavily the piece was edited. GW turned my story, on Derek and his music, into an extremely puffy piece about how “cute” it was to see such a little fellow carrying around that big guitar. Note to Derek: Don’t blame me for that.

At any rate … Word was that Derek was going to make a guest appearance or two, and I saw him pull up to one of the stages late Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, he applied those trademark sweet-and-stinging slide lines to several pieces during three sets – by jazzy soul/R&B outfit Lettuce, New Orleans keyboardist Ivan Neville and his Dumpstaphunk outfit, and high-energy organ trio Soulive. My pix of Derek, on this post, are from his performance with Lettuce. So is the above YouTube video.

The guy is a natural, of course. Not that we need reminders after all the great work he’s done leading his own band, and playing with the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Susan Tedeschi – Derek’s wife and an impressive blues guitarist and singer in her own right (more about her in a forthcoming post).

The Robert Walter Trio, led by the former Greyboy Allstars B3 organist/keyboardist, played one of my other favorite sets at Bear Creek. Walter, with great New Orleans bassist James Singleton (Astral Project) and new NOLA drummer Simon Lott, dug deep into various strains of jazz, funk, and, of course, Crescent City rhythms (check out my pix of Walter and Singleton).

The tunes were drawn, in part, from Walter’s new Cure All, with Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich, the other half of Astral Project’s rhythm section. I caught the group playing an evening set at Preservation Hall during Jazz Fest week this year (saxophonist Donald Harrison sat in), and I recently covered the CD for Las Vegas City Life. Click here to read the review.

I spoke with Singleton after the set, and in addition to gifting me with his gorgeous sounding string-quartet CD, Gold Bug Crawl, he told me that he is in the process of moving back to New Orleans, after a long post-Katrina residency in Los Angeles. It will be great to have such a vital part of the NOLA music scene back in the mix there.

Sunday morning, my friend Lennie and I ran into Walter near one of the concession stands, and he told us how big a fan he is of Derek – the musician, and the man. I’m guessing that it’s something of a mutual-admiration society.

As mentioned in an earlier post, my full review of Bear Creek will be published in the coming months in Relix magazine.

Meanwhile, check out these other reviews of the fest: