||Thursday, July 19, 2001
Still blowing strong
Septuagenarian saxman Rollins improves with age
By DENIS ARMSTRONG
Don't tell Sonny Rollins how good he looks.
He's starting to find the remarks about his excellent state of preservation a little annoying.
"Maybe I should get sick," he jokes from his home outside Albany, N.Y.
Sonny Rollins courtesy of JAM Music
"All this news about how good I look for my age and how old I am is wearing me down."
But when you've been playing and recording since 1949, you simply cannot escape the past.
The 71-year-old saxman plays Confederation Park's "Concert Under The Stars," part of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, tomorrow night at 8:30 with Metalwood opening at 6:30.
Rollins has played with just about everyone in jazz. He could out-namedrop anyone except the Pope if he wanted to. He's played with Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Paul Bley, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Lester Young, Bud Powell and Art Blakey.
Rollins is a hot, passionate player, full of mood and energy, as hot as Davis was cool. There's nothing elusive or sublime about Rollins's tenor sax sound. It just cooks at a very high heat.
Bop, hard-bop, bossa-nova and even rock 'n' roll.
One of Rollins' most unusual pairings was in 1984 with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.
"I was filming a Canadian documentary at the legendary nightclub The Bottom Line when I met Jagger," Rollins recalls.
"He liked the way I play and asked me to play on Tattoo You.
(He does the tenor sax solo on Waiting For A Friend.)
"I was ambivalent but my wife said 'do it.' Then, they wanted me to tour with them. I said no. I didn't want to be a jazz guy playing rock."
Age has done little to slow Rollins down. He still plays across Europe in the spring and the U.S. in the summer. After 40 years it's become his routine.
Last year, he recorded, and he had to ballpark this, his 60th album. This Is What I Do is mind-blowing.
Patented Rollins, the ballads are lush and long and the jams are big. Rhythmic grooves are six-feet deep, the improvising, particularly from Rollins, piano player Stephen Scott and Clifton Anderson on the horns is outstanding.