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Sonny Rollins @ 80

Sept. 10, 2010; The Beacon Theatre, New York, N.Y.

Christian McBride, Roy Haynes and Sonny Rollins in performance at Beacon Theatre
Ornette Coleman with Roy Haynes and Sonny Rollins in performance at Beacon Theatre
Ornette Coleman with Sonny Rollins in performance at Beacon Theatre
Roy Hargrove and Sonny Rollins in performance at Beacon Theatre

“History in the making” is the atmosphere that surrounds pretty much all of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ performances. Over the last four decades, thanks to the savvy of his late wife and manager, Lucille, Rollins has been presented exclusively within the expansive and prestigious contexts his playing deserves. In and out of jazz, a Rollins performance is considered an essential experience; the standard line in preview blurbs goes something like, “Don’t miss this chance to witness jazz’s greatest living improviser,” and you’d be in the minority to argue with the designation.

Rollins’ performance on Friday night, a two-hour tour de force at the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, eclipsed its own considerable hype, and seemed to overshadow similarly touted Rollins shows-for one, the saxophonist’s return to Carnegie Hall, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, in 2007. It included one road in particular we’d never traveled down before, and might never again. It gave the sold-out crowd bragging rights to last a lifetime.

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