The seven songs on Road Shows, Vol. 1 have been chosen from over twenty years’ worth of live performances, which may have made for a haphazard collection. But we’re talking Sonny Rollins here, which means that on any given night you are liable to hear the miraculous. The album offers flashes of magic; like the bootleg it was meant to prevent, there are rare insights, immediate treasures, and not much of a sense of continuity. If the goal was to show that Rollins has been a steady genius forever, that dropping a line into any gig is bound to produce something magical, they've achieved it. These songs don’t show a growth in Rollins’ playing so much as consistent exuberance and technical daring.
Some fifteen years apart, “Best Wishes” and the jump blues of “Tenor Madness” showcase Rollins’s ability to tear the roof off while maintaining his sweet tone. The emotional peaks hinted at in 1980’s “Easy Living” are made explicit in “More Than You Know.” (This 2006 version also features a tasty solo by guitarist Bobby Bloom.) A nice take on “Blossom,” also from 1980, gives further room to the band, as pianist Mark Soskin and bassist Jerome Harris both get quality solo time, all the while anchoring the melody. The set ends with “Some Enchanted Evening” from 2007, a slow smoky majestic take on the standard deepened by the Roy Haynes’s smooth drumming.
This is the first in a planned series of tracks culled from gigs over the years that were recorded for private use by Rollins archivist/fanatic Carl Smith (a DVD is also being released). It would be nice if in the future complete shows were released, to a get a sense of Rollins’ work over the course of a single show. But as an introduction to the series, Road Shows, Vol. 1 announces the arrival of a trove of re-mastered live recordings that showcase the power that is Sonny Rollins.
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