WBGO Blog
  • Sonny Rollins Concert

    June 28, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Sonny Rollins & Russell Malone, photo by David Tallacksen
    Sonny Rollins & Russell Malone, photo by David Tallacksen

    A huge roar in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, the biggest venue of the Montreal Festival, greeted Sonny Rollins. He entered in a flowing red silk shirt, a SHOCK of grey hair, the iconic profile, dark sunglasses, the saxophone and then the sound. The first piece was as simple as four bars, repeated, yet the more he played them, the more I wanted more. And he was generous.

    He holds a note a long time, intense and penetrating, then tumbles down the ravine through a syncopated strung-out cadence you feel but can't hold onto to punch the bottom note, spin it. Love those low notes. Everything spins -- the tone, melodies, everything and as the concert progressed, it seemed to spin more. From The Very Thought of You through a calypso (not St Thomas) .. as that applause for that ended, a lady cried out "We love you Sonny!" he stepped to the mic and said "Love you back!"  .. an Italian folksong in 3, They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful. . . He paced a bit, pumped his fist, sung two choruses of a blues about a no-good woman (has anyone seen Sonny Rollins sing before?) and it was over. I looked up toward the five white stairway-to-heaven boxes plastered to each dark sidewall of this home to the Montreal Symphony and saw people cheering for more. There was a bow but not an encore. It was complete, a concert to remember.

    At the beginning of the show, Rollins received the 2010 Miles Davis Award from Montreal's Andre Menard. I'm for a Sonny Rollins Award! And right away.

  • Rhonda Hamilton Interviews Guitarist Russell Malone

    May 1, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Rhonda Hamilton and Russell Malone

    Rhonda Hamilton interviewed guitarist Russell Malone yesterday.
    Fortunately, Russell didn't share any of his really colorful jokes with our audience. If he did, the FCC would level some hefty fines.
    He did, however, talk at length about his experience with Jimmy Smith. When Russell met the organist in Atlanta, he asked to sit in with the band. Russell played everything he knew, trying to impress Jimmy. The audience went wild. Then, Smith called a ballad, "Laura," and Russell did not know the song. That humbling experience led to an all-night lesson in music in Jimmy Smith's hotel room. Smith had played with some great guitarists, notably Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. He taught Russell Malone a valuable lesson - to put himself into the music, rather than trying to emulate those guys. Listen to the interview.
    -Josh