by Luke Stewart
Avant music editor
Monday, Oct. 10, 2011
Sonny Rollins’s Monday night concert took place at what is now his regular D.C. performance venue: the Kennedy Center. Even in a town that tends to shut down early on a weeknight, the seats of the great hall were near full. That is because among all living jazz masters, perhaps none is more revered, more seasoned or more influential than Mr. Rollins.
In many ways, he is the embodiment of multiple jazz stereotypes. He was the Young Lion, at the right place and time in history (New York City in the 1940s) to have played with and influenced virtually every major figure in the bebop era. He was the lonely artist, having taken a highly romanticized hiatus from public performance, dedicating his time to solitary practice on the Williamsburg Bridge. He was the crossover sensation, having recorded a series of successful albums with strong tinges of jazz-rock fusion. And now, he is quite simply the jazz master. A strong sense of reverence was in the audience on Monday, and the historical weight of his very presence shone through with every note.
Rollins was not the only legend on the stage that night. He was, to great delight, joined by Bob Cranshaw on a strangely shaped, compacted upright bass. Peter Bernstein, a Jim Hall protege, was on guitar; Kobie Watkins, a veteran on the Chicago scene, played drums; and on percussion was the hard-working sideman Sammy Figueroa. Continue reading