Sonny Rollins

Without a Song, the 9/11 Concert


In the aftermath of 9/11, Sonny Rollins and his band made an engagement in Boston four days after the tragedy. As difficult a period it was for everyone, and with travel hard to come by, this band somehow got to the gig and treated people to the healing power of music. This CD is a recording of that show and a testament to Sonny's great spirit.

The now-famous concert features Clifton Anderson on trombone, Stephen Scott on piano, the very steady Bob Cranshaw on bass, Perry Wilson on drums, and a dynamic but under-recorded Kimati Dinizulu on percussion.

The tunes are typical of Rollins's shows-long solos, great interplay with the rhythm section, fresh ideas, and dramatic endings. Most of the five tunes are over twelve minutes long, and since this was a live concert, there is no editing, alteration, or overdubbing. It's live as live can be, which may be one reason the percussionist Dinizulu was off-mike all night on the CD mix. From the crowd reaction, however, he must have sounded just fine in the house.

The tunes include the very appropriate "Global Warming," a lovely "Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Why Was I Born?" and "Where or When."

Although not as flashy as on a normal night (everyone was still in shock from the attacks, and this was the East Coast where all this stuff happened), Rollins and band give a heartfelt and honest reading of these standards. Rollins himself was not far from ground zero and had to be evacuated from his apartment, so it was a lot more than watching TV for them. The audience in Boston knew by then that many of the flights had indeed originated from their Logan Airport.

In the liner notes, Bob Blumenthal writes that the concert was one of "sober excellence"-nothing too over the top, but appropriate to the tenor of the times. And Sonny's tenor does fill the bill, sounding full and passionate. There's something sure and steady about Sonny's playing, and that had to add to the special nature of the evening.

The recording, while not perfect, is a good documentary of the concert, including remarks from Rollins about the nature of music to help in such a time.

By Michael Handler