I've always been a big fan of jazz giant Sonny Rollins, now 90, so I was glad to find out that some long-lost recordings of his brief tour of the Netherlands in May, 1967, when Rollins was just 36, had been discovered, packaged, and recently released as "Rollins in Holland" by the Resonance label. It's a wild, live recording with Rollins playing straight-ahead, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners improvisation, ably accompanied by two of Holland's greatest jazz musicians: bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. The package presents more than two hours of playful, energetic, freewheeling Rollins at the height of his prodigious talent.
Listening to the album took me back to the one Rollins concert that I attended, not in Holland, but in Boston, some years later, in the 80s, I believe. I was there on business and checking in one afternoon at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Registering at the same time was a very cool-looking, urbane couple who looked vaguely familiar. Then I spotted the horn case the gentleman was carrying and realized who it was.
"Excuse me," I said, "but are you, by any chance, Sonny Rollins?'
"Yes," the man answered, "and who might you be?"
"Uh...well, uh...I'm Charles Farley."
"Good to meet you," he said, extending his hand, "and this is my wife and business manager Lucille. What brings you to Boston?"
"I'm here on business," I said. "I sell computer systems to libraries. How about you?"
"We're here for a concert," Rollins informed me. "Upstairs someplace in the ballroom, tonight."
"No kidding! What luck!" I exclaimed. "I'm definitely going."
"No you're not," the desk clerk said, rather rudely, I thought. "It's sold out."
"Oh no," was all I could muster. "I guess I'm not." I must have looked like I felt: disappointed and forlorn.
"Well, wait a minute," Rollins said. "Lucille, you got any tickets?"
"Just a few I've held back for the press," Mrs. Rollins answered.
"How about we give one up for Mr. Farley here?" Rollins said.
"What about the press?" his wife asked.
"Fuck the press," Sonny Rollins pronounced. "I play for the people, not the press."
And that's how I ended up in an aisle seat, center, row 4. Great concert!
Charles Farley is an author who lives and writes in Huntsville, Alabama.