Friday, May 14, 2010

Sonny Rollins; Meklit Hadero

Sonny Rollins was stunningly magnificent at Cal Performances Thursday night. Sporting a white Afro, in his classic shades, red shirt and dark slacks ... gold horn --the only musician without a chair, just a music stand with water ... the king came on stage blowing and dancing and moving around between one musician and another ... and when I left on the fourth song, he was still going strong.

The first song wasn't named but if ever there was a song which gave Rollins an opportunity to strut his stuff this was the tune. As I said, he came out blowing and walked to the edge of the stage and leaned into his breath, almost on his toes body curled as he became the horn ... curved and at times so aerodynamically off center, I kept thinking he might fall, but what do I know (smile).

He didn't.

His band featured Russell Malone on guitar and was he good. Seated on a stool, he seemed to play so effortlessly. Rollins allowed his musicians to stretch ... Malone, drummer, Kobi Watkins, who certainly fueled the engine that night, he and Rollins. No one could out blow or out play the master (but Watkins certainly made the odds interesting).

Rollins just seemed too tickled or pleased to be playing that night. One could feel his enthusiasm. The audience rose to its feet on more than one occasion. He spoke more than usual too announcing the songs and laughing and joking with us.

Has the approaching seventh decade finally mellowed Rollins out? His birthday is in September. Is seventy the magic number? I kept thinking about the magnificent tenor saxophonists in town recently: Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd courtesy of SFJAZZ Spring Season 2010 and now Sonny Rollins. It doesn't get any better.

I saw this really cool poster for sale in the lobby and I would have bought it, but I didn't have enough cash. It was only $10.00, but I had to save my money for bridge toll; I was leaving to go hear Meklit Hadero at BIMBO's.

Rollins gave the audience a little background on the song Global Warming which is not what one might think. "It's the glaciers too," he said, "but Global Warming is taking care that your garbage doesn't become someone else's work."

Bob Cranshaw was on bass and Victor Y. See-Yuen was on percussion and I am glad Mr. Rollins introduced the personnel, because the printed program that evening was incorrect--Malone was not listed as the guitarist. I don't know what happened, but Malone was a treat! I thought I recognized him and then that recognition was confirmed verbally. It was a night I wish I'd had my binoculars. I was close, but well, Mr. Rollins wasn't about to fall into my lap (smile).

Other songs played that night were Nishi for a friend of the band's in Japan, the ballad My One and Only Love --what a nice thought (smile) and as I was leaving another standard I couldn't name.

Though I was sad to leave, I wasn't the only one in the audience trying to multi-task that evening. Everything started at 8 PM! I couldn't get to San Francisco to see Will Nichols at Velma's, but his trio will be there the second Thursday in June as well. If I'm not in Haiti, that's where I plan to be (smile), but I hope I am in Haiti ... send donations for my trip to ...*

I walked to my car on Telegraph, made a U-turn and headed for San Francisco. It was so easy getting to Bimbo's. I was there, it seems around the beginning of the set. I caught two of my favorite songs: Soleil Soleil and Abbay Mado, which is a traditional song sung in Amharic. He father and others danced the traditional dance. Meklit said, "I always wanted back-up dancers.

She had many guest singers and her sting ensemble were awesome. After the set, DJ Jeremiah played his Afro-beat mix. I danced for a bit.

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy souvenirs were a great keepsake. I have two which are shriveling up. I hope they dry out and last forever (smile). We shall see. Visit

* Wanda Sabir, P.O. Box 30756, Oakland, CA 94604.


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