Weird, the first thing that struck me on the title track of the new Sonny Rollins' CD "Sonny, Please" was the playing of trombonist Clifton Anderson (who's got a good solo on "Remembering Tommy" as well) and Kimati Dinizulu on percussion.
Mr. Rollins gets his by the time it's over, however, on his first studio release in six years and the first release ever on his own record label Doxy. I thought his last two studio CDs, "Sonny Rollins +3" and "This is What I Do," both Milestone, were among his best. They also were his last new disks of any kind before the outstanding, Grammy-winning and live "Without a Song," also Milestone, released last year.
I think "Sonny, Please" rates with any of the three and will probably get even more interesting over time because there's a lot going on in the course of the program.
Mr. Rollins is at his lyrical best on "Someday I'll Find You" and "Stairway to the Stars," which I place up there with two of my favorites, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" on "This is What I Do" and "What a Difference a Day Made" on "+3." (Nice supporting work from Dinizulu on "Someday I'll Find You" and Anderson and guitarist Bobby Broom on "Stairway.")
The great tenor saxophonist is on the avant-garde edge on "Nishi," with some very complex blowing, and he makes another wonderful tribute to an old friend on "Remembering Tommy" (pianist Flanagan, who played with Mr. Rollins on his masterwork "Saxophone Colossus.") He seems to get especially inspired when he pens tunes in honor of former musical mates, as he did with "Have You Seen Harold Vick?" and "Charles M." on "This is What I Do."
The highlight: Probably "Serenade," on which he engages in the kind of ultra-creative improvisational odyssey from a simple melody for which he's justly famous. He closes with another in a line of smile-creating calypso-influenced tunes, "Park Place Parade."
Here's to many more new Sonny Rollins' CDs.