When I started this blog, I expected to focus on my personal interests, such as music, technology and science. As it turns out, most of the posts so far have emerged from my work-life, dealing with finance and economics. Seeing Sonny Rollins perform last night at the Sydney Opera House makes for a good excuse to change this with a post with a musical theme.
When I first started a serious exploration of jazz a few years ago, Saxophone Colossus was one of the first classics I added to my collection. Recorded in 1956, it features perhaps the most famous Rollins track, St Thomas which rapidly became a standard and is likely to be familiar even to those with but a passing acquaintance with jazz. But just in case you are not familiar with it, St Thomas is the first track on my Jazz Sampler over on mixwit [Update: with the demise of mixwit, these links no longer work].
There was a full house in the Concert Hall for Sonny’s only Australian performance. Time appeared to have taken its toll as a stooped, white-haired old man walked slowly out onto the stage. Walking may have been an effort, but when the saxophone came up to his lips, Sonny’s playing was powerful, clear and seemingly effortly.
Backed by trombone, guitar, electric bass, drums and congas, Sonny graciously turned his back as the other players took their turn to solo. It was, however, his night and his stamina for blowing his horn was extraordinary as he repeatedly improvised for ten minutes or more at a stretch. By the end of the night, he had played for two and a quarter hours in a set that included a rendition of St Thomas that clearly excited the crowd.
This was Sonny’s first ever performance in Australia and it was a privilege to see the venerable colossus in action.