Posted by: jkirkby8712 | June 7, 2011

Monday 6 June 2011 – a fabulous night of jazz with an ageing legend.

Quiet day at the office, alone for most of it, and I must admit that the warmth of the office [contrasting sharply with the outside temperature] left this writer feeling rather tired, and in some wishing he was able to return straight home this evening. However, other events called!

This evening, another trip into the city – this time to the Melbourne Town Hall, for the first of two concerts associated with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival which is currently in progress. I’m developing quite a likeness for this genre of music, just wish I had been as interested about 40 years ago, and had been part of a group of jazz enthusiasts!!  In my current group of friends and connections, jazz does not figure high on their musical priorities, which is the pity – at present, any such ventures I go to, have be on my lonesome. Although, I must admit that sitting there tonight, listening to the music, my thoughts were wishing I was sharing that music with someone else [although of course, being the money miser that I am, that would probably mean, twice the cost!!].

Nevertheless, irrespective of all those thoughts, tonight’s jazz concert was a beauty, although it started about 25 minutes late – perhaps jazz concert goers are used to that, as there were still streams of people coming in to their seats, some 20 minutes after the advertised starting time!!! As it eventuated, perhaps that was by design, as there was no interval, which actually pleased me, because it was looking like a very late night at one stage there, despite the great music. And who was the artist? Last year, I was privileged to see 80 year old Ahmad Jamal, tonight another legend of jazz – also 80 years old, ‘Sonny’ Rollins, born in New York back in 1930, a classic jazz saxophonist and composer, and described by many in the industry as the ‘master of modern jazz’. Rollins is credited with having a major influence on countless artists over almost eight decades of music. Not all of his life has been perfect over those decades, but he has survived, and today, continues with a dedication to live performances. The response of tonight’s crowd was indicative of an appreciation of that kind of dedication . The long term enthusiasts in the audience [and I don’t include myself in that category, being a fairly recent convert as a lover of jazz] gave the man a rousing reception, and that rapture with his performances and persona continued throughout the night. As one New York writer said of  Sonny Rollins, it’s rare that he is not  “playing somewhere in the world, pursuing the combination of emotion, memory, thought, and aesthetic design with a command that allows him to achieve spontaneous grandiloquence.” Another critic, Stanley Crouch wrote that: – “Over and over, decade after decade, from the late seventies through the eighties and nineties, there he is, Sonny Rollins, the saxophone colossus, playing somewhere in the world, some afternoon or some eight o’clock somewhere, pursuing the combination of emotion, memory, thought, and aesthetic design with a command that allows him to achieve spontaneous grandiloquence. With its brass body, its pearl-button keys, its mouthpiece, and its cane reed, the horn becomes the vessel for the epic of Rollins’ talent and the undimmed power and lore of his jazz ancestors.”

I love the music of the tenor saxophone, although at times, I found the volume almost piercingly too loud, but that was probably just my age showing out!!, but nevertheless, his playing of the instrument was infectious, as were those on stage with him – Peter Beinstein [on guitar], Bob Cranshaw [bass], Kobie Watkins [drums – what a sensational solo piece partway through the show, loved that part], and Sammy Figueroa [on percussion, basically bongoes as I called them, and he also, had his own spectacular solo time during the night, as did the guitarist and bass player. Now I have never seen Sonny Rollins perform before, even on film, that I can remember, so his initial appearance on stage was quite a ‘surprise’, almost doubled over, presumably with an ageing back condition, and apart from odd moments when he seemed to straighten up, he played the saxophone in that slightly bent over stance, and more shuffled around the stage – initial impression by some might have been of an ‘old drunk’ stumbling onto the stage, but what a sensational ‘stumbling’ performance he turned on for the capacity Melbourne Town Hall crowd.

Sonny Rollins

It was eventually a pensive drive home, not really in a hurry, as all of my Monday nights from hereon in are going to be late ones, with a new radio show. Listened to the closing stages of the ABC’s Q & A Program, simulcast on the radio, sounded as though it had been quite an interesting night with much discussion about the Israeli/Palestine situation. But I’m also going to miss that program on a Monday night, one of the sacrifices of wanting to do a late night show! When that program finished, I went searching for some music to see me through the balance of the drive. Susie not home when I got  there, though she returned as I was about to go to bed. At least got a brief greeting in!! Thankfully, the bad weather had held off tonight, and although it was quite chilly, the rain stayed away, so my walk back to the car after the concert was done in relative comfort.

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