Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's Herbie's world

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary in 1998 of George Gershwin's birth, Herbie Hancock put out "Gershwin's World" (Verve) on which he had the temerity to update Gershwin. I say if anybody has the credentials, musicality and versatility to update Gershwin, it's Herbie Hancock and "Gershwin's World," which I bought this summer and gave its second listen the other day, is Exhibit A.

From the modernistic take on "It Ain't Necessarily So," to having Joni Mitchell Sing "The Man I Love," to rendering "St. Louis Blues" as a funky romp with Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica, scatting and singing (Joni and Stevie contribute to a not-your-father's version of "Summertime," too) this CD is a work of art.

And then there's Herbie's version of the second movement of "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G," which is in here because Ravel dug and used elements of Gershwin the way Gershwin employed jazz elements. A stunning disk (some people rate it Hancock's masterwork) with an all-star cast that includes James Carter, Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Wayne Shorter, among others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

He'll be 75 next month

To me "Autumn Nocturne" on "Don't Stop the Carnival" and the title track on "G-Man" are the gold standards for Sonny Rollins live performances on disk and I'm now going to add the newly released "Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert" to that list. All of it.

"Without a Song," the song and the CD, starts out conventionally and a little slowly, as I thought Mr. Rollins did at his concert in Chicago's Orchestra Hall in April. But that concert turned into one of the legendary Sonny Rollins performances and Mr. Rollins quickly picks it up and bends "Without a Song" to his will. Nice solos by Clifton Anderson on trombone and Stephen Scott on piano as well. (Scott wasn't at the pianoless Chicago concert, but I really like his playing and I've liked it in particular the times I heard him live and on disk with Sonny Rollins, with whom he seems to have a real affinity.)

Recorded at a concert in Boston days after Sept. 11, 2001, a calypso, as in Chicago where it was "St. Thomas," is one of the highlights, this time "Global Warming," which Mr. Rollins takes in all kinds of directions, even introducing strains of Italian folk music at one juncture. Anderson has a good solo (if imperfect, hey it's live) on this, too, as does percussionist Kimati Dinizulu.

Fine ballad performance and a stunning close on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," which I'm not ashamed to say makes me teary every time I hear Sonny Rollins play it. It's the shortest song on the disk at nearly 11 minutes, meaning there's plenty of room for improvising throughout, and what more do you want in a performance by Mr. Rollins? I've heard him play "Why Was I Born?" plenty, but never quite like the up-tempo run here and, again, Anderson and Scott add excellent solos of their own to a rendition that borders on free jazz in places. "Where or When" is a glorious and unusual session closer.

When I read early raves, I wondered if it was just because it's been four years since we had a new Sonny Rollins CD. Nah, "Without a Song," issued by Milestone/Concord, is just that good. Mr. Rollins was clearly cooking, for a guy in his twenties let alone his seventies, and I think his band knew it and rose to the occasion.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sound advice

"Sound," Roscoe Mitchell's Delmark label free jazz opus from 1966, which I purchased recently and gave its second listen the other day, is truth in advertising exemplified. What you get are instrumental sound explorations in an avant-garde jazz context by Mitchell on alto sax, clarinet, recorder and more; Lester Bowie on trumpet, flugelhorn and harmonica; and bassist Malachi Favors, who would join them in the groundbreaking Art Ensemble of Chicago; plus trombone, cello, tenor sax and drums.

The title track lasts 26 minutes and a reprise to end the disk 19. The amount of sonic stuff piled on in those 45 minutes is staggering. They make their instruments sound like everything from bagpipes to a baby's cries. I can barely take the mental stimulation involved in listening to it without needing to stop and rest my hyper-firing synapses. This is not about catchy tunes. If it sticks in your head, you've got one weird brain. You sure as heck won't be dancing to it. It's all about texture, color, placement, space. Think aural Picasso, and sometimes Dali. An essential disk if you're a free jazz fan.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lit fuse

"Dding Dek," which opens guitarist Nguyen Le's CD "Bakida," combines rhythms of the Far East with fusion guitar work from Le, Paris born of Vietnamese parents, whose playing reminds me some of Mike Stern or Joe Satriani. Miles Davis would have been down with the tune and its sound in places also brings to mind, at least to mine, Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer's brilliant ECM disk "Khmer," maybe the most interesting marriage of jazz and electronica I've heard.

"Dding Dek" pretty much sets the stage for what follows in a consistently creative set. "Bakida," which I like a lot, is lighter than "Khmer," for instance, and includes more conventional jazz elements, although not necessarily used conventionally. Take the title track, kind of a fusion ballad, or "Heaven," where the guitar licks are almost electric Spanish.

On the German Act label, High Note in the U.S., the disk is built around Le's trio (guitar, bass and drums/percussion) and brings in an international collection of artists for guest spots, two of my favorites, American saxophonist Chris Potter and Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, among them. More good jazz from Europe, and other points on the globe, on a disk which I think electric guitar fans in general would dig.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sheets of (guitar) sound

Free jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock's 1969 recording "Black Woman," just reissued on the Water label, opens with a title track that's kind of an acid spiritual and then goes into "Peanut," which makes me think of Albert Ayler without the saxophone. The "horn" here is the wordless vocalizing of Sharrock's then-wife Linda Sharrock, who moans, screeches and otherwise belts out abstracted instrumental sounds through most of the disk.

Meanwhile, Sharrock, stellar pianist Dave Burrell and the rest of the cast produce fine avant-garde jazz underneath and around Linda Sharrock's vocal forays with roots in traditional African music, the blues and Spanish guitar, among other influences I can discern. It's an interesting CD, if short at 31 minutes, although I have to say the voice stuff annoyed me in spots. The instrumental side, Sonny Sharrock's Coltrane-like sound sheets for guitar not the least, is nifty enough, however, that I suspect it will grow on me.

Theme noir

The theme song for the noirish interludes of my life has been the version of "St. James Infirmary" on the Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie Pablo CD (1977) "The Gifted Ones" thanks to my buddy Carl Abernathy, who introduced me to the disk and whose literate rock, blues and jazz blog I recommend. I was disconcerted the other day to read a review of this CD that bad rapped it. I think it's an excellent disk and Ray Brown on bass and Mickey Roker on drums to round out the quartet certainly don't hurt.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Give me a Woody

If Woody Shaw had played in the '50s and '60s instead of the '70s and '80s he would be Lee Morgan, remembered as a giant, his recordings plentiful and available. I believe Shaw's "Rosewood" is essential for anyone building a semi serious jazz collection.

So I didn't have to think hard about buying Columbia's new reissue of "Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard," which Shaw recorded with the core of his "Rosewood" band about a year later and at the height of his powers. Except for 17 minutes of McCoy Tyner's "Blue for Ball," the program is all hard-bop compositions from Shaw and bandmates Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano), Clint Houston (bass) and Victor Lewis (drums). Nothing clocks in under eight minutes, leaving lots of room for consistently excellent improvisation. Saxophonist Carter Jefferson doesn't contribute a composition, but his Sam Rivers-like playing was a revelation to me. I'm only sorry he led exactly one session and it's unavailable.

Great liner notes from Shaw's son Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III, trombonist Steve Turre, who played with Shaw, although not on this session, and producer Michael Cuscuna, who must have done a great job of recording in the first place because the sound is studio quality. This and "Rosewood" make a great Woody Shaw twofer.

Rave for Rava

Paolo Fresu gets some of his kung fu from trumpeter Enrico Rava, a contemporary of Tomasz Stanko and the dean of an impressive body of Italian jazz musicians, which rivals the Scandinavians' in my opinion.

I bought Rava's "Live at Birdland Neuburg" from the good folks at Indie Jazz this month and it's a keeper. Rava with a young German quartet plays "My Funny Valentine" more as affirming anthem than soulful ballad, certainly not as the heart string-plucking piece, say, Chet Baker makes of it. "You Don't Know What Love Is" is rendered as an avant-garde vamp with a reggae back beat. In contrast to the original, they take a group improvisation-oriented approach to Sonny Rollins' "East Broadway Rundown," which you don't even hear people trying to play much, probably because Mr. Rollins set such a high standard.

I'm thinking of making "Certi Angoli Secreti," one of three Rava compositions on the disk, the theme song for those noirish interludes of my life. Outstanding stuff.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In a Polish way

I think I first heard the name Tomasz Stanko from former boss, jazz fan and good guy John Rumbach at The Herald in Jasper, Ind., and I recently picked up his CD "Suspended Night" from ECM. (Stanko's, Rumbach doesn't have a CD out that I know of.)

The CD started out reminding me of Miles Davis in his second great quintet. (See "In a Silent Way" and compare the ethereal licks and the use of space.) But Stanko is really more like Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, whom I first heard, and was quite impressed by, at the Duc des Lombards, a wonderful jazz club in Paris. (Stanko, from Poland, has been around a lot longer so maybe Fresu actually sounds like him.) You could toss in a little Lester Bowie as well. In any event, I can see why Stanko's received a lot of international attention in recent years. Quite a fine, atmospheric disk.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bowie's no pretender

Lester Bowie always seems to me like he had a good time making his recordings and "The Great Pretender," a 1981 ECM disk I bought this summer, is a case in point. Besides the nearly 17 enjoyable minutes of the title track, culled from the '50s pop hit by the Platters, he and what's mostly a quartet also make hay with "It's Howdy Doody Time."

Except for "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," the other songs are Bowie's. Baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett and gospel singer Fontella Bass join the ensemble for "The Great Pretender," which, like the rest of the program, is rendered in avant-garde jazz terms with a variety of styles (from New Orleans marching bands to Motown) worked into the mix. The eerie, abstract "Oh, How the Ghost Sings" won't be everybody's cup of tea, but the rest of it's pretty much like the opener, a good time.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Another Freeman

If Ben Webster and James Carter got mixed up in the transporter device that goes haywire in "The Fly," either version, you would get Von Freeman. Big soulful sound. No compunction about probing the boundaries of tradition, or stepping over now and then. I like his last CD "The Great Divide" on the Koch label.

Two other Von Freeman disks that float my boat: the Delmark label "You Talkin' to Me?" with Frank Catalano, a Freeman protege, and "Lockin' Horns" with Willis "Gator" Jackson, which I got from the defunct 32 Jazz label. Freeman and Jackson play together on two songs on the latter and have two songs each individually in an organ quartet with Carl Wilson on the B-3 and Joe Jones doing some pretty fine guitar playing. Jackson's version of "The Man I Love" is absolutely classic.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Chico is the man

"The Outside Within" from saxophonist Chico Freeman starts with the bluesy sounding "The Search," which made me think of Chico's dad Von Freeman, the venerable Chicago tenor player. That's about it for daddy. Three free jazz romps, including the 19-minute "Undercurrent," follow with the younger Freeman blowing more like Pharoah Sanders or Sam Rivers, in whose avant-garde big band Chico played. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, John Hicks on piano and Cecil McBee on bass, guys who seem to me to be able to play just about any style imaginable, may be the perfect rhythm crew for this and get in some good licks of their own. Nice disk from the India Navigation label.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two to tango

If Astor Piazzolla used elements of jazz to modernize tango music, Argentine musician Dino Saluzzi has gone the next step and created what I'd call, for lack of a better label, tango jazz. His last two CDs for ECM, including this year's "Senderos," offer contrasting looks at what he does.

"Responsorium" has Saluzzi on bandoneon, Swede Palle Danielsson on bass and guitarist Jose Maria Saluzzi, Dino's son, playing what's essentially adventurous trio jazz tango style.

"Senderos" has Dino Saluzzi playing only with percussionist Jon Christensen. It's heavily improvised, kind of free tango jazz. I first listened to this on a cloudy, drizzling Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect fit. Not toe-tappin' bop by any means, but I think both disks will remain interesting through repeated listenings because the music is quite intricate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tango time

Several years ago, all I could have told you about tango music was that Gomez and Morticia Adams used to dance to it. But I've since heard jazz musicians doing interesting things with the form, "Tengo Tango" on Cannonball Adderley's "Nippon Soul," for example, or "Coral" on Dawn Clement's wonderful CD "Hush."

It was "Hush" that prompted me to look up tango master Astor Piazzolla and to buy his seminal recording "Tango: Zero Hour." Piazzolla is known for modernizing tango, an Argentine folk music, in part by infusing it with elements of jazz and there's a lot here for jazz fans, even avant-garde jazz fans, to enjoy.

Although it isn't jazz per se, it's not far in places from stuff by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, James Carter, Jenny Scheinman, Dave Douglas and other people who have used European- and Latin-style folk music elements in jazz. Piazzolla plays the bandoneon, the chief instrument of tango, in a quintet with a violin, piano, guitar and bass. Great music and a nice horizon expander.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Doc rocked

My recent foray back into Ken Burns' "Jazz" also prompted me to look for something from Doc Cheatham, who gets face time in the series talking about jazz history in general and Louis Armstrong, for whom he sometimes subbed, in particular. I picked "Swinging Down in New Orleans" on the Jazzology label. As you could guess, it's dominated by classic New Orleans-style jazz. His trumpet playing is good for anyone on songs like "When I Grow to Old to Dream" and frigging amazing for a guy 88 years young at the time. He wouldn't win any singing prizes, but it's fun when he does sing, as on "I Want a Little Girl." A delightful CD.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Too hip for Bolton

I think the Paquito D'Rivera-led United Nations Jazz Orchestra must have been inspired when it recorded "A Night in Englewood" in 1993 as a tribute to the orchestra's cofounder Dizzy Gillespie, who had died that January. Everybody in what is unabashedly a Latin big band for this set plays extremely well, alto saxophonist D'Rivera not the least. You get sambas, bossas, a tango blues and lots of good jazz driven by Afro-Cuban rhythms. Somewhere, Dizzy was smiling.

I've wanted this CD for awhile and even had a copy of it in my hand once but, alas, put it back. I hadn't been able to find it since and then was surprised when it popped up at our Borders last week. Thanks to the Miami-based Pimienta Records label for reissuing it.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Not knockin' Norah

Which isn't to say I'm bad rapping Norah Jones, even if she isn't Lizz Wright. I really like Jones's hit CD "Come Away With Me," as I was reminded when "Turn Me On" came up on the Shuffle during this morning's walk and it did.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

All Wright

I've seen comparisons of Lizz Wright to Norah Jones, I guess because some people see the same star potential. But I've heard Norah Jones and Lizz Wright and Lizz Wright is no Norah Jones. Wright's is a more rangy, powerful voice and heavier at the deep end in the Nina Simone or Cassandra Wilson vein, albeit all her own. I have no problem seeing her as the featured soloist in a boffo gospel choir.

I'm unable to decide whether to call her new CD "Dreaming Wide Awake" a blues or a jazz or a soul disk and it doesn't matter because it's a good one however you want to classify it. Cool jazzed covers of Neil Young's "Old Man" and of "Get Together." The accompaniment is sparse, so Wright's voice had to carry the proceedings, which she does no problem.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

He was bad, man

"Stagolee Shot Billy" by Cecil Brown is an interesting book that traces the history of the blues song from a real-life incident in late-1800s St. Louis to its impact on rap today with lots of discussion about its cultural context and meaning. The latter got a tad too acacdemic for me in places but not to the point of being painful.

While reading the book, I've been collecting versions of the song from emusic and other places. But my favorite versions are on CDs I already owned: "Stack 'O Lee" on the Mississippi John Hurt CD "Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings" from Columbia and "Stack-O-Lee" on the Champion Jack Dupree CD "Blues from the Gutter" from Atantic. I also like Sidney Bechet's instrumental version "Old Stack 'O Lee Blues" from Blue Note's "The Best of Sidney Bechet," available as a single at the iTunes Music Store.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mingus essentials

Five Charles Mingus CDs I wouldn't want to be stranded on a desert island without:

"The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady," Impulse. I think it's the height of Mingus, and probably one of the greatest jazz recordings, on par compositionally and musically with an Ellington suite. If you're going to own one Mingus CD, this is it.

"Blues & Roots," Rhino. It drives so hard and kicks so much butt that I'm surprised the Bush administration hasn't outlawed it. If you're going to own two Mingus CDs, this is the other one.

"The Great Concert of Charles Mingus," Verve. Two disks of Mingus live in Paris with Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan and Jaki Byard. Brilliant. The salute to Johnny Coles's trumpet is priceless.

"Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus," Atlantic. My buddy Carl Abernathy (visit his rock, blues and jazz blog) will tell you there's no better version of "Haitian Fight Song," titled "II B.S." here, and he might be right. I'm taking it for the Mingus version of Ellington's "Mood Indigo."

"Mingus Ah Um," Columbia. If "Black Saint" isn't the height of Mingus, this is. I wouldn't go anywhere without this version of "Better Get It in Your Soul."

If I could sneak in another, it would be "The Clown," Atlantic, for the long-form version of "Haitian Fight Song" and for the title track, which reminds me of a Harry Chapin story song, Mingus style.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mingus vision

I came across this passage in the notes section of a book I finished over the weekend, "Stagolee Shot Billy" by Cecil Brown, which is about the traditional blues song. It struck me as a great characterization of some reasons I like jazz in general and Charles Mingus in particular.

"Jazz values improvisations, personal vision and assault on the conventional modes of musical expression, but it will not allow the individual to forget what he owes to tradition, not the tradition of a great man but the legacy shaped by a whole people."

In the best of Mingus you hear field hollers, the blues, the church, Ragtime, New Orleans, big band swing, Ellingtonia, Latin rhythms and more, laced with scintillating improvisation, certainly with a strong, almost overwhelming sometimes, personal vision, and a big fist in the face of convention. You could say this about almost any of the great jazz musicians, it seems to me, from Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton to Branford Marsalis and James Carter, not to mention Monk, Miles, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Duke, Pops...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Mingus reloaded

"East Coasting," the Charles Mingus Bethlehem recording from 1957 just reissued by Shout! Factory, features a sextet that often sounds like a big band including Mingus stalwarts Danny Richmond on drums and Jimmy Knepper, who played with a lot of big bands, on trombone. The pianist is a young Bill Evans, before Miles, "Kind of Blue" and his own career as a leader. Other than "Memories of You," everything is a Mingus composition, a lot of them very bluesy. The playing is more conventional than, say, "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady," but it's excellent and pushes the envelope in places. The redone sound is great. Then again, I'd say just about anything by Mingus is great so decide for yourself.

Big Banding, part 2

Here's another in my hunt for good one-disk samplers covering a selection of classic big bands from the '20s, '30s and '40s with decent sound, representative material and a reasonable price.

"Glenn Miller/Pure Gold" by way of RCA and BMG. A 10-track CD with every song that makes you think Glenn Miller, "In the Mood," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "American Patrol," et al, and fabulous sound. I got it for $11.98 on Amazon.

Funny story. At the back end of my 40s, I don't often feel like the kid in the crowd anymore. There's still a Glenn Miller Orchestra touring and a couple years ago they stopped at the Virginia Theater here, a marvelous old movie palace that's been converted to a classic film and events venue, including Urbana native Roger Ebert's annual Overlooked Film Festival. This is a five-minute stroll from my house so I went. The music was great. The audience was sizable and enthusiastic. And I was the youngest person there pretty much by half. All in all a wonderful evening.

Follow the links to my suggestions for disks featuring the bands of Jay McShann or Claude Thornhill or Chick Webb or Benny Goodman or Fletcher Henderson or Billy Eckstine or Earl Hines or Andy Kirk.

Friday, August 05, 2005

More than blue

OK, Doug Wamble's singing on "Bluestate" is bluesy, gospely and makes me think of a weird combination of Bruce Hornsby and Nina Simone. His guitar playing is somewhere on the road between Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery and not that far from Bill Frisell's neighborhood in spots. And the music he makes with pianist Roy Dunlap, bassist Jeff Hanley and drummer Peter Miles, all of whom are really good, is adventurous jazz tending toward the avant-garde with Latin, Middle Eastern and other tinges tossed in for good measure.

All this on diverse, consistently interesting material that comes by way of Wamble, Dunlap, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder and the church via Mahalia Jackson and unfolds with lots of nifty surprises along the way. Another gem from Marsalis Music. Big boss Branford Marsalis contributes a gnarly guest tenor solo on "Rockin' Jerusalem."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stan and Benny clicked

Another good Dragon label disk I bought recently, "At the Click 1948," features the great Swedish clarinetist Ake "Stan" Hasselgard dueting with Benny Goodman in a major-league septet that has Wardell Gray on tenor sax, Teddy Wilson on piano and Billy Bauer on guitar. It's fine small-group swing and very beboppy in places.

The sound is decent for a CD made from broadcast recordings, the only thing available since this group never recorded in a studio. Hasselgard, just 26, would be dead a few months later, killed in a car crash outside Decatur, Illinois (about 50 miles west of where I live) while driving to meet Goodman in California.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bernt and Arne

Like Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders, Bernt Rosengren has shifted to playing more, but not quite, conventionally in his later years, which gives you a better perspective on just how skilled all three of these guys are.

"Face to Face" from Stockholm's Dragon label pairs Rosengren on tenor sax and flute with the great Swedish alto saxophonist and clarinetist Arne Domnerus in a quintet including outstanding pianist Jan Lundgren. It's a bunch of well-done straight-ahead playing with improvised flourishes that keep things interesting.

Reminds me of an Evidence CD I have with Phil Woods on alto and Lew Tabackin on tenor in a quintet with Jimmy Rowles, not too creatively titled "Phil Woods/Lew Tabackin." I like both disks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Coming attraction

I'm so excited. The previously unknown recording of Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 1957 for a Voice of America radio broadcast, which the Library of Congress discovered this year, is going to get released on CD in October or November. It will sure as heck be on my must-buy list.

Bernt offering

I don't know why the Swedes became so good at jazz. Maybe it's the intensity of their fans. I never saw an audience as serious as when I went to a show at Jazz Club Fasching in Stockholm. People were on the edge of their seats, which they took early, and it was obvious that chitchat, ordering a drink or even clinking a glass were not appreciated while the music was in progress.

With audiences like that, a musician is advised to produce. Bernt Rosengren, one of the giants of Swedish jazz, and his quartet surely do on a two-CD set I just acquired from the wonderful Swedish Ayler label. I think it's bound to become one of my favorite free jazz titles.

"Free Jam" is from recordings made in 1972 at improvisational woodshedding sessions in a Stockholm warehouse that was kind of like Minton's for Swedish free jazz players in the early '70s. The CD is listed under South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza's name.

Feza, of whom recordings are rare, is an attraction. He's amazingly fast and evidently wired to play like this. But Rosengren, who plays saxes, flute and piano, and his mates are fantastic as well. The sound is very good, much better than any of the rare Minton's stuff I've heard. If you like things like Coltrane's "Ascension," Archie Shepp's "Fire Music," or Pharoah Sanders' "Karma," you'll probably like this. I do, and Swedish jazz, too.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sonny reflections

I picked up what I thought was the latest JazzTimes on Friday when I saw Sonny Rollins on the cover and now I see it's actually the June issue. Our Barnes & Noble must be behind. Or they had a lot of leftovers they're trying to push.

In any event, there's a nice interview, which I read today, with Mr. Rollins as he approaches his 75th birthday in September and the release this month (supposed to be Aug. 30) of a new CD from a live performance in Boston days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with Joshua Redman as the interviewer and a bunch of people talking about how Mr. Rollins has affected their music and lives.

One thing I learned from the package particulaly interested me. He now has all his concerts recorded. I hope the Boston disk won't be the last. I heard him give a stunning performance in Chicago in April and I would love a CD of that.

More great Sonny sides where he remakes popular tunes: "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" on "The Sound of Sonny" and "Someone to Watch over Me" on "Here's to the People." The latter may be my all-time favorite Sonny Rollins ballad performance.

Monday blues

When Cassandra Wilson sings "you don't know what love is until you know the meaning of the blues," I, for one, am tempted to buy it. I bought Wilson's "Blue Light 'Til Dawn" on sale for $9.99 anyway. I'm happy I did. Bluesy jazz or jazzy blues (What difference?) from a genre-straddling gal with a fine set of pipes, including two gutsy, improvised Robert Johnson covers. Me and the devil think it's sensual, sophisticated, soulful music to drink by.