Most musicians would at least be considering the idea of retirement by the time they reach their mid-seventies, but most musicians aren't Sonny Rollins. After a five-year recording hiatus, Rollins returned from a Japanese tour and took his band into the studio to cut Sonny, Please. It's the first release on his own Doxy label, coming after a monumental 35-year stay at Milestone that produced some of the most forward-looking, trend-setting jazz ever captured on tape. It would be a stretch to say that Rollins is still the innovator he was in the '50s and '60s, but it would be a mistake to underestimate his capabilities as an elder, because Sonny, Please is a respectable, occasionally brilliant effort. It doesn't hurt that Rollins surrounds himself with such fine players as his perennial bassist Bob Cranshaw, with whom he has worked since his late '50s comeback from an extended vacation; the ubiquitous drummer Steve Jordan; trombonist Clifton Anderson (who is Rollins' nephew); guitarist Bobby Broom; and percussionist Kimati Dinizulu. As supportive as they all are, though, Rollins remains the focus, blowing his sax as assuredly as ever, if with a little less abandon than during his heyday. Rollins splits the program between new self-composed tunes -- among which "Nishi" and the opening title track are the most exhilarating -- and standards, including "Stairway to the Stars" and Noël Coward's "Someday I'll Find You." Rollins' soloing is, as ever, full of both fire and fancy. The album closer, the tropical-toned original "Park Palace Parade," is somewhat typical: Rollins' tenor glides effortlessly from the start, exploring the tune's melodic nuances. He takes a break while Broom peels out tasty licks, then Rollins returns to approach the song from another angle. Most of his playing here is relatively easygoing. Rollins still enjoys taking it to the limit, just not as often as he once did. He doesn't need to, though; with nothing left to prove, he can afford to stand back and just enjoy being Sonny Rollins.
Sonny, Please Review
by Jeff Tamarkin