Since his continuing health issues forced the great saxophonist Sonny Rollins to cancel his concert originally scheduled for tonight at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, it seems fitting to use today's video showcase to pay tribute to the man who's been called "the world's greatest living tenor saxophonist," "the heavyweight champion of the tenor sax," and many similar complimentary names.
Of course, no video of Rollins truly can substitute for the real thing, so let's just call this a sort of "get well" card, expressing our hope for a fast and full recovery and serving as a reminder of Rollins' continued greatness.
Longtime readers may remember that he's been featured in this space twice before, in 2007 and 2009. One of those clips from that little-seen 2007 post is so compelling as to warrant another look, and so we've chosen it to kick off today's festivities.
It's an excerpt from the Robert Muegge film Saxophone Colossus, and features Rollins and his mid-1980s band (trombonist Clifton Anderson, bassist Bob Cranshaw, pianist Mark Soskin, and a very young-looking Marvin "Smitty" Smith) at an outdoor show in Saugerties, NY. The tune is Rollins' "G-Man," which in this case consists of nearly 14 minutes worth of jaw-dropping soloing from the leader. It's as good an example of Rollins' unflagging energy, inventiveness and pure audacity at mid-career as you're likely to find.
Let's fast-forward a few years for the next two clips, which are extended versions of "Long Ago and Far Away" and "Tennessee Waltz" recorded in May, 1992 at the Philharmonie im Gasteig in München, Germany, featuring Rollins, Anderson, Soskin, Cranshaw, guitarist Jerome Harris and drummer Yoron Israel.
Below that is an excerpt from a 2006 show in California, featuring Rollins and band as shot by his friend and associate Bret Primack, aka the Jazz Video Guy, who has lots more Rollins- and jazz-related material on his YouTube channel.
We close out with two vintage B&W clips showing Rollins in an intimate trio setting. Recorded in 1965 in Denmark, "There Will Never Be Another You" features Rollins swinging with drummer Alan Dawson and bassist Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen, while "Love Letters" from all the way back in 1959 shows him in ballad mode, aided and abetted by bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Joe Harris.