77-year old Sonny Rollins absolutely lifted 2,000 plus in a wowing two-hour set Thursday night at Zellerbach Hall on the Berkeley campus.
The gig was the first before a worldwide tour over the next two months for the tenor giant that includes Singapore, Japan, China and Rollins’ first trip to Korea. The group returns to the US briefly before moving on to Europe in the summer.
The irrepressible genius called tunes and blew glowing chord support throughout the show and was positively still energetic backstage – after two hours of uninterrupted performance. The Rollins feel remains, an unmistakably witty and stable voice in jazz and the sextet has found a dope new heartbeat in drummer Kobie Watkins who, churning the toms, created a pulsing drum-and-bass groove that Rollins, and all of us, felt. If they were strolling it would be sick.
Rollins’ broad tone blends seamlessly now with long-time collaborator, trombonist Clifton Anderson, whose fluidity is technically superior and, at moments, gorgeous. Rollins continues to experiment with African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu.
Highlight of the evening for me was witnessing novelist Ishmael Reed and Rollins share a fistpound backstage after the show, and hearing the former introduce his wife to Rollins, thus: “Meet my wife, Carol, Carol … The Colossus.”