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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 30, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 18
Compañia Nacional de Danza, Sonny Rollins, 110 in the Shade
Arts & Entertainment
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Compañia Nacional de Danza, Sonny Rollins, 110 in the Shade

by Mercy Moosemuzzle - SGN Contributing Writer

Compañia Nacional de Danza
Mercy and Cuteness both found the Spanish troupe, Compañia Nacional de Danza at UW World Dance Series, to be incredible dancers. Their combination of classical and contemporary ballet was pleasing.

Everything performed that night was choreographed by the Compañia's artistic director, Nacho Duato. The first piece, "Arenal," was set to songs beautifully written and sung by Maria del Mar Bonet. It contrasted incredibly joyful ensemble movements associated with the Mediterranean personality with low, mournful solos expressing how hard their life is. That dance, done expressively by Ana Maria Lopez, made Cuteness think of a widow confronting so much gaiety.

The second song, "Kol Nidre," was wonderful in its North American premiere. It addressed the youngest victims of war with sad spirituality. Its title refers to the Jewish Day of Atonement. The music by John Avener, Arvo Part, and John Zorn was apt.

Mercy and Cuteness both agreed that the final dance, "Cobalto," was brave in its subject matter, but had different interpretations of what that was. Mercy thought it was about tortured prisoners, Cuteness about S&M. Mercy had to agree with Cuteness once she read the program notes. They both found the music by Pedro Alcalde made them uncomfortable and felt it ran too long. Cuteness pointed out they had recently seen a dance with a similar theme choreographed by Ulysses Dove, which she felt was much better, largely because it had a sense of humor. That element also made it impossible for Mercy to make her error about Dove's dance.

Sonny Rollins at the Paramount
Mercy and Cuteness are really, really, really looking forward to seeing Sonny Rollins at the Paramount on May 10.

Theodore Walter Rollins was born on September 7, 1930, in New York City. He grew up in Harlem, not far from the Savoy Ballroom, the Apollo Theatre, and the doorstep of his idol, Coleman Hawkins. After early discovery of Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, he started out on alto saxophone, inspired by Louis Jordan. At the age of 16, he switched to tenor, trying to emulate Hawkins. He also fell under the spell of bebop, the musical revolution that surrounded him.

He began to follow Charlie Parker, and soon came under the wing of Thelonious Monk, who became his musical mentor and guru. Living in Sugar Hill, his neighborhood musical peers included Jackie McLean, Kenny Drew, and Art Taylor, but it was young Sonny who was first out of the pack, working and recording with Babs Gonzales, J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis before he turned 20.

"Of course, these people are there to be called on because I think I represent them in a way," Rollins said recently of his peers and mentors. "They're not here now so I feel like I'm sort of representing all of them, all of the guys. Remember, I'm one of the last guys left, as I'm constantly being told, so I feel a holy obligation sometimes to evoke these people."

In the early '50s, he established a reputation first among musicians, then the public, as the most brash and creative young tenor on the scene, through his work with Miles, Monk, and the MJQ.

Miles Davis was an early Sonny Rollins fan and in his autobiography wrote that he "began to hang out with Sonny Rollins and his Sugar Hill Harlem crowd & anyway, Sonny had a big reputation among a lot of the younger musicians in Harlem. People loved Sonny Rollins up in Harlem and everywhere else. He was a legend, almost a god to a lot of the younger musicians. Some thought he was playing the saxophone on the level of Bird. I know one thing - he was close. He was an aggressive, innovative player who always had fresh musical ideas. I loved him back then as a player and he could also write his ass off&."

He won his first performance Grammy for This Is What I Do (2000), and his second for the album 2004's Without a Song (The 9/11 Concert) in the Best Jazz Instrumental Solo category (for the track "Why Was I Born"). In addition, Sonny received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2004.

In June 2006, Rollins was inducted into the Academy of Achievement - and gave a solo performance - at the International Achievement Summit in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and attended by world leaders as well as distinguished figures in the arts and sciences.

Rollins was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class, in November 2009. The award is one of Austria's highest honors, given to leading international figures for distinguished achievements. The only other American artists who have received this recognition are Frank Sinatra and Jessye Norman.

Rollins was elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, it was announced on April 26.

"I am convinced that all art has the desire to leave the ordinary," Rollins said in a recent interview for the Catalan magazine Jaç, "and to say it one way, at a spiritual level, a state of the exaltation at existence. All art has this in common. But jazz, the world of improvisation, is perhaps the highest, because we do not have the opportunity to make changes. It's as if we were painting before the public, and the following morning we cannot go back and correct that blue color or change that red. We have to have the blues and reds very well-placed before going out to play. So for me, jazz is probably the most demanding art."

And Sonny Rollins - seeker and grand master - is jazz's most exacting, exhilarating, and inspiring practitioner.

You can get your tickets at www.stgpresents.org.

110 in the Shade
Mercy and Cuteness are intrigued to hear about the musical their friend Assonance told them about, 110 in the Shade, opening, May 7 at Seattle Musical Theater.

In the middle of a heat wave in 1930s Texas, when everyone is longing for rain, or a breeze, Lizzie Curry is on the verge of becoming a hopeless old maid. However, when a charismatic rainmaker named Starbuck enters the town and her family's life, Lizzie's world is turned upside-down.

Based on N. Richard Nash's 1954 play and subsequent 1956 movie The Rainmaker, starring Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, this musical version includes heartbreakingly beautiful ballads and raucous ensemble numbers that will leave you longing for a good storm - even in rain-soaked Seattle.

You can get tickets at www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org.

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