Well ,given the title, just what does Sonny do? He plays joyous and danceable calypsos . On this CD, it's "Salvador." He does remarkable things with the most unlikely material. Who else would have created a classic jazz album (Way Out West) from cowboy songs? Remember his version of Dolly Parton's " Here You Come Again?" Or Franz Lehar's "Vilja?" Well, this time Sonny goes Hawaiian with "Sweet Leilani" and "The Moon of Manakoora." As always, he treats these chestnuts (macadamias?) with affection rather than condescension. He loves melodies and reflects this in his lyrical embellishment of the English wartime ballad, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." He pens originals. Here they include a funky "Did You See Harold Vick?" and a blues, "Charles M." The late Harold Vick was a sax-playing friend and I suspect you know who Charles M. was.
This may seem like a hodgepodge to you but it's all held together by Sonny's big sound and his intuitive free-wheeling improvisations. The band furnishes the home base for his explorations. It includes Jack DeJohnette along with Rollins' usual backup of Clifton Anderson, Stephen Scott and Bob Cranshaw. Perry Wilson is the drummer on two cuts. Pianist Scott, a " graduate" of the late Betty Carter's group, is given plenty of solo time. He is particularly strong on "Berkeley Square" and has some blues fun with "Leilani." Anderson's earthy trombone sound stands out on "Charles M."
Sonny makes quality CDs. However there is no experience in jazz like hearing him live and in full flight . If he's in your neighborhood, DON'T miss him! (Fortunately, he's coming to ours!) In 1979 Gary Giddins called Rollins "the greatest music maker we have." So many of the masters have left us . We are lucky that this brilliant improviser is still here, just getting better and better.