Keeps Rollins Along
Saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins is held by many to be the greatest living jazzman. The List considers the qualities ofone of the real jazz giants.
When it comes to measuring the metaphorical stature ofcurrent jazzmen. only trumpeters Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie stand alongside saxophonist Sonny Rollins among the survivors of the generation which forged what came to be the dominant mode of modern jazz. Like both those men. Rollins made his initial mark in the revolutionary harmonic innovations of bebop. but really came into his own as the music modulated into the less-ﬂuid register of hard bop.
lfthe register hardened. however. Rollins‘ ability to conjure up lengthy improvisations remained as ﬂuent as ever. Unlike Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. he was not dependant on a relentless. obsessive drive towards innovation. but carved out a formidable and highly influential reputation as a stylist.
to the point 0 raucous in his tonal
qualities. he plays all across the range of the horn. and exhibits a peerless flair for long solo progressions. twisting and turning his often simple themes with an apparently limitless fund of invention. and a predestined sense ofwhere he is going. and how he is going to get there.
‘I‘m not a musician that can go to a job and do the same routine every night.‘ Rollins has said. ‘Even though I might play a repertoire ofcertain songs every night. each of those songs is going to be played differently each time. In fact. they are re-composed each time. It‘s one thing to have arranged band licks around you. but that‘s not where I‘m coming from. I'm coming from straight improvisation. extemporaneous creativity. all of those things happening right on the spot.‘
Apart from his celebrated calypso-derived
tunes like St Thomas. Don't Stop the Carnival. and the more recent Duke oflron. that repertoire has always included more than a sprinkling of wholly unlikely vehicles. from I'm An Old Cow/rand and Wagon Wheels to Toot. Toot. Tootsie and There 's No Business Like Showbusiness. The saxophonist unfailingly transforms these corny old warhorses. but claims no parodic intent in including them.
‘lt‘s precisely because I love the songs that I can do that with them. I‘m not trying to parody them in any way. it begins with an appreciation and a love of the material for what it is. and then l put my interpretation into it.‘
Rollins‘ last visit to Edinburgh. at the Usher Hall last year. proved to be something of a disappointment. a good rather than a great performance which was not helped by the distinctly non-jazz like atmosphere of the venue. The more relaxed. club-like ambiance of the Queen‘s Hall should spark a more typical display. aided by the unexpected presence of Marvin ‘Smitty‘ Smith. currently the hottest young drummer on the New York bop scene. Trombonist Clifton Anderson is a more familiar name in the Sextet line up.
‘1 have always enjoyed the special sound of saxophone and trombone. right from the days when I played with J.J. Johnson. Even more to the point than the sound of the instruments.
though. is the empathy which Clifton and l have built up. We have a very fine rapport. which is what we have been aiming for all along. and it‘s becoming so important to the way everything is sounding now.‘ I Sonny Rollins Queen‘s Hall ('I‘DK Round Midnight/Fringe Venue 72). 668 201‘). 22 Aug. 9.30pm. £10.50 (£9).
‘In those days.‘ Tracey recalled. ‘I was listening mostly to the Parker and Gillespie stuff. I was influenced by Bud Powell‘s harmonic approach. and then I heard Monk. and he was saying more to me than Powell did. so I sort of drifted Monkwards. Monk and Ellington were the two piano players who really zapped me. but I actually didn‘t really hear Ellington until 1 was in my late twenties. lhad listened to him earlier and it didn‘t really say anything to me. Later on. I suddenly started to hear what he was about. and I‘ve been listening to him ever since.‘
Apart from leading the sell-out Usher Hall tribute to Ellington with his excellent Orchestra (26 Aug). Stan will be playing in various imaginative formats around the McEwan‘s Festival. from Duo to Quintet (see programme for details). Contractural obligations. however. have required him to drop out ofthe advertised Queen's Hall gig with hoofer and ex-List cover star Will
THAT SWING THANG
That Swing Thang have built a reputation as an excellent dance band around versions of the jump and jive classics of the Thirties and Forties. In their show at the Fringe Club they seem on the point of abandoning this music for a Butlin‘s I holiday camp style of I cabaret. At timesthey ! I
swung hard enough to make dancing seem inevitable. but this was . always interrupted by , set-pieces built around I juvenile jokes (mock I Mexican music with the band clad in huge Whicker sombreros. Hawaiian shirts and bicycle shorts lined with tartan) or tired comedy routines from Craig McMurdo. In fairness it was their first night. and only about a third full. which might have contributed to the woodenness— the band were tight and vibrant when they‘ve really got their teeth into a song. Laugh?! lwish lcould have danced. (Tim
l Gaines on 26 August. Son Jordan) Clark‘s trio deputises. I That Swing Thang (KM) (Fringe) Fringe Club IThe Expanding Stan (Venue 2) 226 5257. Tracey Band McEwan‘s 11—13. 15-16. 18—20. 22. Jazz Festival. 22—26 23, 25-27, 29 Aug—2 Sept. August. 8.45pm. £5 (£4).
After the opening Jazz Parade along Princes Street. 300 musicians will assemble in the Grassmarket. Then the trombone player from the Paris High Society Jazz Band will climb onto a podium to conduct what will be the world‘s biggest-ever jazz band. And even in front ofthe TV cameras and witnesses from The Guinness Book Of World Records. his baton will keep immaculate time. for. away from his Dixieland hobby. Daniel Barda is conductor of the Paris Symphony Orchestra. France. especially Paris. was one of the first countries outside America to recognise the beauty and potency of the new music. and has long been a
haven for jazz musicians. many of the great black American players from the Thirties onwards finding steady work. and an audience. when union disagreements kept them out of Britain.
Jazz Festival director Mike Hart is an enthusiast of the Gallic groups and this year has invited ‘without question the numberonc big band in France. Just like in the Stan Tracey big bands. Claude Bolling hand-picks the best musicians. The band is full of great soloists like Claude Tissendier. a supreme mainstream/bop altoist.‘
‘Also. France didn‘t have a “trad” boom. so the music wasn‘t corrupted. and you get the Paris High Society band who are a superb Dixieland band or Hot Antic. they have been here before with their 30s‘
Add tenorist Guy Lafitte and the Hot Club guitar style of the Pascal Le Lyon Trio and you have the line-up of the complete French evening at Meadowbank. Then a look through the programme will show the Tricolour bands spread throughout the Festival Legendary partner of Django Reinhardt in the pre-War Hot Club de Paris. violinist Stephane Grapelli plays one ofthe major Festival nights at the Usher Hall. (Norman Chalmers)
I Claude Bolling Big Band Guy Lafitte Quartet. Hot Antic Jazz Band. Paris High Society Band. Pascal Le Lyon Trio. Le Piat D‘Or Jazz En France (McEwans international Jazz Festival) Jazz Pavilion. Meadowbank (Venue l)9pm—2am. £6.50.
I Stephane Grapelli (McEwans international Jazz Festival) Usher Hall (Venue 20) 228 l 155. 27
— NIGEL CLARK
When Nigel Clark takes the stage with Tommy Smith. he will feel more at home in the idiom than his Hue and Cry gaffer Pat Kane (brother Greg will not now be playing).
Apart from supplying those fine. funky guitar licksto the band‘s sophisticated pop/soul mix. Nigel indulges in jazz whenever possible. usually in the company of Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin. or pianist Brian Kellock. who also takes part in the concert with the excellent John Rae Collective.
‘When we did Tommy‘s televison show.‘ Nigel recalls. ‘we all thought the version of Round Midnight worked really well. [don't know what we will do this time. but we are looking forward to it. One ofthe problems of beingin the band is that it restricts the chances to play jazz. especially with Graeme. since one or other of us is usually tied up. and it takes a while to get your playing back into a jazz mode.‘
Nigel‘s interest was sparked by the musicof Django Reinhardt. and then Charlie Parker. although he admits that ‘it took me a while to get into it.‘ The bebop-into-bop idiom remains his favourite. and one he
plays with increasing assurance and invention. (KM)
I Tommy Smith Experience .lazz Pavilion.
Meadowbank (McEwan‘s Jazz Festival Venue l ) 557 l6-12. 22 Aug. 9pm.£6.5il.
The List 18 - 24 mgr—1;? i389 49