My abiding recollection of Saturday’s gig is the feeling of warmth that seemed to emanate from the the stiff legged, white haired, near octogenarian bundle of energy that fronted the band . He was clad in a baggy, silky shirt of more or less the same orange as all the signs around the Barbican, and it was tempting to assume that they had refurbished their look in his honour. That I’m recalling what it felt like to be there more than the musical content seems appropriate. I can’t better the description in the programme notes: muscular hard-bop, lilting ballads and cheeky calypsos. It was the first cheeky calypso about half way through that sent the energy levels through the roof. He stood at the footlights, honking, swaying, conducting himself and generally firing everyone up. My other pair of ears summed it up. “He’s getting down” she whispered. She also commented on the musical conversations that seemed to go on. After the theme of a lilting ballad say, Sonny honks and nudges, playing fragments of melody and long notes as one of the sidemen gets going on their moment in the spotlight – a bit of one to one on stage coaching. And all to soon it was the blues to jam out. We couldn’t believe how the time had flown. The encore? Don’t stop the Carnival of course. This is what he does. Compare the review of yesterday with that from three years ago by John Fordham here and here. Not quite the same set but not far off. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Somehow he manages the trick of making it feel he’s communicating directly so the instrument and the material are a bit secondary.
Rollins Week Part 2b: Sonny Rollins, Barbican, Saturday 14th November