Sax Done Right

With Sonny, it’s always as good as the first time

Too many people like to wordplay around with sex and sax, as in “there’s nothing like good sax,” et cetera. A deeper reason than simple homonymity exists. What Homer Simpson calls the sax-a-mo-phone might be the most sensual of all musical instruments, at least in the right hands, such as those of senior sax superstar Sonny Rollins. If the husky, smoky tones of this tenor giant don’t do it for you, check for a pulse and then close your coffin -- particularly if you’re enjoying those potent sounds in the incredibly romantic Gusman Center, with its starry ceiling and unmatched acoustics.

Jazz music -- maybe even live music period -- doesn’t get better than Rollins’s renderings. At age 75, he’s one of the last remaining members of the original beboppers, born into that highly significant musical revolution. Although today’s younger music fans know the Sugar Hill section of Harlem as the birthplace of hip-hop, it’s also where Rollins grew up, where he formed a band with fellow teens (and future stars) Kenny Drew, Jackie McLean, and Arthur Taylor. The Colossus, as Rollins would come to be known, was not quite nineteen when he appeared on his first Blue Note album, jamming with legendary innovator Bud Powell.

Rollins’s debut as a band leader, also for Blue Note, came in 1956. It was the followup to that, Volume Two, that signaled Rollins’s future Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (which he finally received in 2004). With Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk sharing piano duties (including playing together on Monk’s famous “Misterioso”), Rollins blew away the jazz world with his incredibly textured lines. Naturally he would eventually perform with all the biggies, mainly Max Roach and Miles Davis. No matter who he worked with, though, Rollins has always been able to grab the spotlight with his supernatural solos.

The Colossus is still going strong, having released a live album last year and showing some amusement at the persistent citing of his status as “the last one left” -- “as I’m constantly being told,” he said to one interviewer -- of the bebop giants. Some have called him the greatest musician alive, a tough call to be sure, but he is unquestionably better than sax.

Sonny Rollins performs at 8:00 tonight at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $25 to $45. Call 305-576-4350, or visit www.miamilightproject.com.
Tue., March 14
 
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