Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Denis Gabel: Keep on Rollin’: A Tribute to Sonny Rollins

A Sonny Rollins tribute if there ever was one, Keep On Rollin’ has a pairing of young (Jasper Blom) and younger (Denis Gäbel) tenor saxophonists playing tunes from two of the master’s most famous late-’50s albums: Freedom Suite and Way Out West. You’d be hard-pressed to find musicians more heavily in thrall of early Rollins.

Leader Gäbel and his guest, Blom, both share Rollins’ dark, burly tone circa 1958-also his free-associative way of turning a phrase. Neither player displays an overly distinctive approach, but nor are they exactly musical plagiarists. They use the general parameters of Sonny’s style as a guide without-as far as I can tell-copying him literally. Most importantly, they capture the spur-of-the-moment air that’s so important to the act of improvisation, and which I too seldom encounter in the work of young jazz musicians. The bass/drums rhythm section approximates those on the Rollins’ albums, meaning that they don’t do a whole lot more than keep time and support the soloists, ably but anonymously. While I can’t bring myself to rave about what is essentially a remake of a pair of classic albums, I will confess, Keep on Rollin’ has its charms.

Originally Published