In a packed concert hall at the John F. Kennedy Center last night, Sonny Rollins showed that he is still the Saxophone Colossus at the age of seventy-nine. Limping on stage in a white jacket and sun glasses, Mr. Rollins was greeted by an up-roaring crowd and standing ovation. He wasted no time charging his bop licks over an uptempo rhythm provided by Kobie Watkins (drums), Victor Y. See Yuen (percussion), Bob Cranshaw (electric bass), and Bobby Broom (guitar). Clifton Anderson added the rough, deep trombone sound to the sextet.
Mr. Rollins then ripped through the bluesy “Heaven In the Sky” like a young man with a wounded soul. He also poured his heart out on a sentimental tribute to “J. J. Johnson.” The band members are mostly younger than Mr. Rollins and they sure kept him active. Drummer Kobie Watkins played as if he meant rhythm he hit. The passion and emotion expressed on his face were a joy to watch.
Mr. Rollins and his band closed out the night with a highly groovy tune that had a Caribbean flavor to it. Some of the audience members got up and danced along with Mr. Rollins improvisation and interaction. Once again, the crowd cheered on as they exited the stage. Even without an encore, the show was mesmerizing.