Road Shows 2

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Sonny Rollins’s Road Shows, vol. 2, is quite likely to revive the delirious excitement stirred up at the saxophonist’s sold-out 80th-birthday concert held in New York nearly one year ago. Four tracks were recorded that night; one of them is the 20-minute “Sonnymoon for Two” on which Rollins and surprise guest Ornette Coleman performed together in public for the first time in their long acquaintance, with electrifying results.

“This material was not intended to be my next album,” says Rollins, “but it was so strong that I felt I had to release it.”

Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, who had previously appeared with Rollins at his 50th-anniversary Carnegie Hall concert in 2007, are special guests along with Coleman on “Sonnymoon.” Other @80 selections feature trumpeter Roy Hargrove (“I Can’t Get Started,” “Rain Check”) and guitarist Jim Hall (“In a Sentimental Mood”) with Rollins’s working band: guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Kobie Watkins, and percussionist Sammy Figueroa.

The remaining tracks on the new CD, “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “St. Thomas,” were recorded during a Japanese tour one month after the @80 concert. “I wanted this Road Shows to comprise performances from 2010,” Rollins states. Volume 1, by contrast, presented a range of performances recorded over a nearly 30-year period.

The historic onstage meeting of Rollins and Coleman, whom CD annotator Francis Davis describes as “the two sharpest minds in jazz,” was a first, though the saxophonists are friends who used to practice together on the beach in California. Coleman was invited to play at the September 10th Beacon concert, says Rollins, “but I didn’t know until the last minute whether he would accept the invitation.” Indeed, his participation was confirmed just a few hours before showtime.

“I figured that ‘Sonnymoon’ would be open enough for Ornette and for everybody,” says Rollins. “It could be played in a structured way or an unstructured way. It was malleable enough to suit whatever my guests wanted to do with it.”

Road Shows, vol. 1 was one of the most highly-praised albums of 2008, placing at the top of many best-of lists and critics polls. Stereophile, in a five-star review, wrote that it “represents a new entry on the short list of albums that every serious jazz fan needs to own.”

Referring to the three-year gap between the two Road Shows CDs, the saxophonist comments that “it is my intention and desire to release more music in a much shorter span of time. I have a lot in the archives, but I am thinking about recent things. I want to capture some of Sonny Rollins 2011—new material that I have, and new ideas that I have and am working on, which are as yet unfulfilled and undocumented. Working in the studio is a definite possibility.”

Road Shows, Vol. 2 includes:

1. They Say It’s Wonderful (Irving Berlin) 14:47

Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone
Russell Malone, guitar
Bob Cranshaw, bass
Kobie Watkins, drums
Sammy Figueroa, percussion

Recorded at Sappoto Shimin Hall, Sapporo, Japan; October 1, 2010

2. In A Sentimenal Mood (Ellington, Kurtz, Mills) 5:40

Jim Hall, guitar
Bob Cranshaw, bass
Kobie Watkins, drums
Sammy Figueroa, percussion

Recorded at the Beacon Theatre, New York, NY; September 10, 2010

3. Sonnymoon for Two (Rollins) 21:49

Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone
Ornette Coleman, alto saxophone
Christian McBride, bass
Roy Haynes, drums

Recorded at the Beacon Theatre, New York, NY; September 10, 2010

4. I Can’t Get Started (Duke, Gershwin) 8:11

Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone
Roy Hargrove, trumpet
Russell Malone, guitar
Bob Cranshaw, bass
Kobie Watkins, drums
Sammy Figueroa, percussion

Recorded at the Beacon Theatre, New York, NY; September 10, 2010

5. Raincheck (Strayhorn) 12:57

Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone
Roy Hargrove, trumpet
Russell Malone, guitar
Bob Cranshaw, bass
Kobie Watkins, drums
Sammy Figueroa, percussion

Recorded at the Beacon Theatre, New York, NY; September 10, 2010

6. St. Thomas (Rollins) 2:50

Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone
Russell Malone, guitar
Bob Cranshaw, bass
Kobie Watkins, drums
Sammy Figueroa, percussion

Recorded at the Tokyo International Forum Hall (Forum A) Tokyo, Japan; October 7, 2010