CELEBRATING DETROIT WITH SONNY

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Caught Sonny Rollins the other night playing his third Detroit-area show this century

which is a good way to start any century. Rollins so towers above his sidemen that they can seem like mere foils, space-fillers. But if memory serves well, the group — perennials Bob Cranshaw on bass and Clifton Anderson trombone, plus Bobby Broom on guitar, Steve Jordan on drums and Kimati Dinazului on percussion — seemed more like a band playing with him this time and somewhat less like background for him on Saturday at Music Hall. And Sonny was radiant, wailing, for instance, what sounded like a cadenza from heaven on “In a Sentimental Mood.” After that one, he paid homage to Detroit, recalling that he’d jammed here with Lester Young at the Greystone Ballroom, before naming an honor roll of Detroit musicians: Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan

Milt Jackson (with whom he recalled recording “In a Sentimental Mood” years ago). After burning through his calypso “Global Warming” — no doubt in response to Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize the day before — Rollins bounded back to the microphone to reel off even more names, starting with Kenny Burrell, then on to Paul (P.C.) Chambers, Doug Watkins, James Carter. So, as a friend sitting nearby underscored, just as easily as you or I can drive and suddenly remember that there was, say, an iron left on back home, the greatest jazz improviser alive can make delirious cascades of notes explode out of his horn, while entertaining a second train of thought: “Oh, yeah, Kenny, damn, can’t forget Kenny

and my old friend Paul

and

Sonny Rollins: King of cool...

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