By Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 7, 2011
Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy, 2008) was the cure for all that ailed Sonny Rollins fans who were familiar with his herculean abilities in live settings, yet disappointed with some of his studio output. Famous for being his own worst critic, the tenor saxophonist cherry-picked all of the material for that outing, meeting near-universal acclaim upon its release. Now, three years later, Rollins returns with his highly anticipated sequel.
Road Shows, Vol. 2 adheres to the same basic principle, with Rollins putting his stamp of approval on live material that meets his exceptionally high standards, but differs when it comes to timeframe consistency. The performances on Road Shows, Vol. 1 spanned more than a quarter of a century, making it come off more like a sampler than a proper album, and providing fodder for those looking to find something about which to complain; a minor issue that is rectified on Vol. 2. The six tracks that make up this album were recorded within the span of one month, helping to unify its overall aural picture: four tracks were taken from Rollins' now-famous 80th birthday concert at New York's Beacon Theatre on September 10, 2010; the other two, from different shows in Japan the following month.
The Japanese selections bookend the album—a measly sub-three-minute "St. Thomas" sign-off at the end, and a lengthy, swinging "They Say It's Wonderful" at the top—but the real meat-and-potatoes comes in the four numbers Beacon Theatre numbers. On the first of these pieces, Rollins cedes the stage to Jim Hall—his guitar buddy from The Bridge (Bluebird, 1962)—for a short trip through "In A Sentimental Mood," but he makes up for lost time when Hall leaves, the saxophonist'
Road Shows, Vol. 2 serves as a reminder of all that's possible when everything is in its right place for a master musician, playing in the moment. This is firm evidence that the Saxophone Colossus still towers above tenors everywhere.
Track Listing: They Say It's Wonderful; In A Sentimental Mood; Sonnymoon For Two; I Can't Get Started; Rain Check; St. Thomas.
Personnel: Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Jim Hall: guitar: (2); Russell Malone: guitar: (1, 3-5); Kobie Watkins: drums: 1, 2, 4-6); Bob Cranshaw: bass (1, 2, 4-6); Sammy Figueroa: percussion: (1,2, 4-6); Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone (3); Christian McBride: bass (3); Roy Haynes: drums (3); Roy Hargrove: trumpet (4, 5).
Music Review: 'Road Shows, Vol. 2' makes jazz history with first-time Rollins-Coleman pairing
By Charles J. Gans, The Associated Press
Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins remains an irresistible force of nature who's best heard in live concert settings where his exuberant, impassioned solos can blow an audience away. "Road Shows, Vol. 2" — which consists of tracks recorded at concerts in Japan and from Rollins' September 2010 80th birthday concert in New York — finds the jazz legend upping his game, pushed by guest soloists, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and alto saxophonist and free jazz visionary Ornette Coleman.
Rollins uses a familiar standard as a launching pad for his elongated, inventive improvisations on the opening track, an uptempo version of Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful." He's supported by one of his tightest touring bands of recent years, trading licks with the young drummer Kobie Watkins and guitarist Russell Malone. Rollins sits out the next track, a subdued take on "In a Sentimental Mood," performed by guitarist Jim Hall, his partner on the 1962 album, "The Bridge."
The album's centerpiece is the nearly 22-minute blues "Sonnymoon For Two," marking the first time longtime friends Rollins and Coleman have performed together in public. It begins with Rollins stretching out with bassist Christian McBride and fellow octogenarian, drummer Roy Haynes, in the piano-less trio format the saxophonist favoured on some of his classic, late 1950s albums. Coleman makes his unannounced entrance just under the nine-minute mark, launching into one of his abstract solos with asymmetric melodic phrases, yet rooted in the blues. As they trade solos, Rollins' playing goes more outside, until they climax in a frenzied unison outburst.
Hargrove and Rollins cool things down by embracing the lush ballad "I Can't Get Started," but then engage in some spirited call-and-response on Billy Strayhorn's "Rain Check." An abbreviated version of Rollins' joyful calypso "St. Thomas" provides an encore.
Unlike "Road Shows, Vol. 1" (2008), which offered live performances spanning 1980 to 2007, Rollins has blended together an more cohesive sequel from concerts recorded a month apart that show why he remains the "Saxophone Colossus."
Rollins' latest 'Road Shows' displays his sax mastery
By Bob Karlovits, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sonny Rollins still is the saxophone colossus his 1956 album said he was. Even in the face of such stars as Joe Lovano, Rollins wins polls and surveys and demands the respect as the master of his instrument. "Road Shows Vol. 2" is a compilation of live recordings that displays his unerring ability and individual tone that has made him so famous. Two of the tracks are from shows in Japan, while the other four, including a 21-minute "Sonnymoon for Two," are from his 80th birthday concert at New York City's Beacon Theater in 2010. The Beacon tracks feature guest appearances by guitarist Jim Hall, sax colleague Ornette Coleman, bassist Christian McBride and trumpeter Roy Hargrove on two of them. They also feature comments from Rollins that show his spirit and sense of humor. The most remarkable aspect of the album is how Rollins and his team give each of the six well-worn tunes a new life.