Sonny, Thank You!
August 7, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
OK. One of the highlights of my live-performance-attending-life happened last night. I got to see the man himself, saxophone colossus, tenor titan - Sonny Rollins! Sonny is one of my all-time favorite tenor players, and this was my FIRST time actually seeing him live. It was really an experience. I love seeing all my favorites perform but this had a different thing to it. Well...because he's Sonny. His body of work, what he means to the history of this music, his contribution as an inventor, a trailblazer and artist...all that. Growing up, my mom would play "Tenor Madness" incessantly. And she and my step-dad would have very interesting debates about who "won" the tenor madness battle. Sonny or the newer kid on the block - John Coltrane. My mom always voted Trane and my stepdad would say "are you crazy?" listen to Sonny's toooone. They would trade lines, singing what they thought supported their vote and well...it was a lot of fun to watch. I always voted Trane myself, being the Trane-junkie I am. But I gotta tell you...one day, I picked those traded solos apart bit by bit for a whole afternoon and well...I really gained a new appreciation for Sonny. My appreciation for Trane was instant and almost innate. But Sonny...it took some maturing for me to really get it like I got it now. I always LOVED Sonny's playing, but there was something about living a little more life, and then listening to Sonny that made me appreciate him so much more. But that was my introduction to the artist that would become such a staple in my life (and CD rotation). Next was the Way Out West recording. I wore that OUT! One of my favorite vamps of all time is his on "I'm an Old Cowhand." So pretty.
But I digress :)
Seeing Sonny yesterday was somewhat surreal. Sonny represents an era; a moment in history that very few artists can demostrate with just their presence alone, like he can. He opened the show with a calypso-feel tune, and was just so warm toward the audience and his band and was clearly having a lot of fun. Then it happened. I was standing at the edge of the stage with my camera, and he walked RIGHT up to me, bent down toward me and posed for my camera (the photo above - that's the one!) Almost like saying "hello!" with his horn. Man...that was a feeling.
He performed his classics like "St. Thomas" and "In a Sentimental Mood" (Yes, when he recorded the Duke Ellington classic, he definitely made it his own). But he also performed newer originals. When he went into "St. Thomas," I thought, "the show's over?" Tisk, tisk...how very cliche of me. I should have known that Sonny wasn't going out so predictably. He played another hour, LOL! He played this one tune that had this dope backbeat...not your typical "I'm a jazz musician playing a back-beat now." No, this had some different stuff sprinkled on it. Almost how I would imagine Tony Williams' version of a back beat...a little behind the beat...a little gritty. And I was thinking man, Sonny is so hip. He's so current, past and future. That's what makes Sonny the man. Well, one of the things. All I can say is "Sonny, thank you." You made my night, and gave me a memory that is one for the books.
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