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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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