Tenor titan Sonny Rollins turns 69 next week, and his performance Saturday night at Carter Barron Amphitheatre revealed that he is still in fine form. He led a talented sextet that never quite kept pace with his explorations, but his patented extended solos on the opening calypso, "Global Warming," sparkled with infernal urgency.
In the past, Rollins has been known as a greedy leader who hogs the bandstand with prolix essays approaching self-indulgence. And yes, he did whip out a lengthy solo in the middle of "Where Are You," but he allotted ample time for his sidemen to indulge themselves. Of all the solos, longtime associate and bassist Bob Cranshaw and pianist Stephen Scott delivered the least tiresome music, while drummer Perry Wilson and percussionist Victor See Yuen's were dangerously dull.
Cranshaw graced Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" with a tenderly nuanced solo, while Scott enlivened "What a Difference a Day Makes" with sparkling impressionism. Trombonist Clifton Anderson pared down his solos considerably, but his crushed-velvet tone exuded elegance on "Sentimental Mood" and "Did I Remember?"
The casualness of the performance sometimes yielded some miscues and lackluster accompaniments, but overall it was a solid if predictable concert that provided further testament to Rollins's herculean stamina.