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Sonny Rollins

The 2005 release Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone) documented a historic occasion: Rollins’s Boston concert at Berklee, four days after the World Trade Center attacks. But the music was typical live late Rollins, with Sonny pressing hard, beating riffs and melodies into submission. Sonny, Please, his first studio album in five years, finds him more relaxed. He settles into the ballad standard “Stairway to the Stars” and lets inspiration find him instead of pushing for it. The usual Rollins calypso is taken at a slower-than-usual tempo; there are even a couple of waltzes, one of them Noël Coward’s “Someday I’ll Find You.” Guitarist Bobby Broom is a welcome respite from long-time pianist Stephen Scott; drummer Steve Jordon locks into understated tidal grooves with bassist Bob Cranshaw. The dark, swaggering one-chord vamp of the title track recalls “East Broadway Rundown,” and Sonny digs into it, veering into adjacent keys, building his attack with slurs and growls and honks. When he returns during trombonist Clifton Anderson’s solo, he’s beyond style or category, as up-to-the-minute as David Murray, as timeless as . . . well, Sonny Rollins. Yes, he’s still compelled to quote Stephen Foster’s “Oh, Susannah” every couple of tunes (specifically, “I come from Alabama/With a banjo on my knee”), but it’s easy to forgive him on this outing. The album, which has been on sale at Rollins’s Web site,, shows up in stores starting January 23.

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