SONNY ROLLINS at Disney Concert Hall, March 16 A ghostly-looking Sonny Rollins drifted onto the stage and blew a gusher of near-classic tenor wilding for 10 minutes. And thats what Ill remember. The rest was a brave effort to keep the carnival wheels turning with no gas left in the tank. Structured for family fun rather than challenge, the set huffed through one plywood pair-up after another, the only sparks flying from guitarist Bobby Brooms sparkler-trail leads and flint-striking rhythm work. As for Kimati Dinizulus kiddie-friendly multipercussion exhibition, Rollins shouldve just hired a juggler. He got a ton of love anyway. And he deserved it though not for this performance. And from the way he waved off the applause, Rollins knew that as only he can.
ERIK FRIEDLANDER & TOPAZ at Barnsdall Gallery Theater, March 25 A full moon froze in the blackness over Frank Lloyd Wrights austere neo-Mayan Barnsdall complex light without heat, which turned out to be the nights theme. A little ritual slaughter wouldve been nice. Topaz flips the idea of an improvising quartet: Erik Friedlanders cello and Andy Lasters alto sax are the twisted trunk that lets Stomu Takeishis electric bass and Satoshi Takeishis drums branch out. Its a neat notion, and the rhythm kings took full advantage. Stomu played more bass than he used to, his dipping and zooming lines trending further down from the musics crowded middle range. And Satoshi, sitting on the floor surrounded by what looked like traditional Japanese tom-toms, whapped out a circular storm of unjazzlike timbres that sucked us in more effectively than anything else. The compositions the ones by Friedlander showed Japanese and Indian colorings, and there was one by the overlooked master Julius Hemphill were journalistically distanced conceptions based on quirky dialogues between Friedlander and Laster (both often reading from music stands). If wed hoped for a level of personal sweat that Topazs recordings lack, we didnt get it. Except, that is, for Aching Sarah, whose summery harmonies coasted along with an Ellingtonian Come Sunday kind of feel while Stomu walked against the beat and Satoshi jammed with contrary contrariness. It made us feel like these New Yorkers might be guys worth getting to know.
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