Sonny Rollins

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 that’s what I’ll 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 Broom’s sparkler-trail leads and flint-striking rhythm work. As for Kimati Dinizulu’s kiddie-friendly multipercussion exhibition, Rollins should’ve 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.

—Greg Burk

ERIK FRIEDLANDER & TOPAZ at Barnsdall Gallery Theater, March 25 A full moon froze in the blackness over Frank Lloyd Wright’s austere neo-Mayan Barnsdall complex — light without heat, which turned out to be the night’s theme. A little ritual slaughter would’ve been nice. Topaz flips the idea of an improvising quartet: Erik Friedlander’s cello and Andy Laster’s alto sax are the twisted trunk that lets Stomu Takeishi’s electric bass and Satoshi Takeishi’s drums branch out. It’s 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 music’s 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 we’d hoped for a level of personal sweat that Topaz’s recordings lack, we didn’t 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.

—Greg Burk

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