Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sonny Rollins: Silver City [Milestone, 1996]
I was all set to call my man Giddins and ask whether this two-CD set could possibly be as unerring as I thought when I learned that most of the choices had been put forward by Gary himself, for the Voice's Rollins issue. So moan all you want about conflict of interest. This is the shit--funny, tortured, profound, romantic, carnivalesque. Surprisingly for a modernist of fabled young alienation, Rollins adds to the easeful, virtuosic majesty of his mature sound an enlightenment that takes the entire vocabulary of the saxophone, from follow-the-notes melody reproduction to squeaks and blats that know no tonal referent, as a sound-palette that is its own reason for being. Hence he may come off too well-adjusted for the what-you-got rebels of rock's supposedly alternative nation. But if you feel about rock and roll the way Rollins does about the saxophone--that it's all one structure of feeling from howl to croon, bubblepop to jungle, Mariah to Polly Jean--you should forget your singing habit and sign on for one hell of a ride. A+