Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sonny Rollins: G-Man [Milestone, 1987]
The live soundtrack to Robert Mugge's Saxophone Colossus is jazz for rock-and-rollers to cut their teeth on. It's exciting, fun, a gas, all that stuff great rock and roll is supposed to be and so rarely is these days. Title track is fifteen minutes of Rollins at a peak--a showman who never shows off, a virtuoso who's never pretentious or (in this situation) even difficult. It's like what some teenager might imagine both "free jazz" and "a honking session" sound like from reading LeRoi Jones or John Sinclair--riffs jumping and giving long past their breaking points, notes held so long it's a wonder Rollins hasn't passed out. Elsewhere are ten-minute workouts on two proven flag-wavers, "Don't Stop the Carnival" and "Tenor Madness" (the latter CD-only although the vinyl runs under thirty-five minutes, my only objection to the package). Everyone else in a quintet accelerated by the amazing Marvin Smith feels the spirit, although their inventions are more strictly harmonic and rhythmic where Rollins's are always sonic as well. Free jazz and honking sessions rarely get this good. I haven't enjoyed a record so much all year. A+