Some Memorable Gigs by the Greats Sam Rivers In 2004 the great Sam Rivers did a warm-up for his London Jazz Festival date by performing at the Michael Tippett Centre in Bath. Sam Rivers is an unrepentant improviser - always wary of not something new and always suspicious of over-reliance on the past.
At the time of this gig he was a youngish man of 81 years. Adventurous and impish, eclectic and disciplined, he moved from saxophone to piano and back with ease.
One of the highlights of the evening was the set after the intermission when the cream of the crop of young British musicians played through some Sam Rivers big band charts. You could have sliced the nervous concentration and sheer panic of these youngsters in that hall with the proverbial reed cutter. Glorious.
Sonny Rollins In 2001 Sonny played the Barbican in London for his only UK date that year. The hall was packed to the gunwales with an unbelievably large number of jazz musicians in attendance. Sonny showed that night that the tenor sax he played was purely and simply part of him.
Sonny played as you would expect - with irony, with passion, with tenderness, with frustration. He walked through the maze of experience with only the thread of sound for a guide. The song titles of that evening were an indicator of the journey -- In a Sentimental Mood, They Say It's Wonderful, What a Difference a Day Makes, Don't Stop the Carnival. An evening with a Master.
Lou Donaldson Camden's Jazz Cafe a couple of years ago. The sax player walks up to the mike. 'Tonight is straight-up jazz. No fusion. No confusion.' It's Lou Donaldson, he's 80 years old and he's taking no prisoners.
Lou's tone on his beloved Selmer alto that night was pure Old School - smoky jazz clubs, neon bar signs and tired hat-check girls - but always spoken with that blues/funk/soul inflection. With Dr Lonnie Smith on keyboards it could hardly have been anything else.
Still, Lou knows the sources, where the spring water is still fresh. He calls out to the London audience, 'Here we are going to play a song from the best jazzman of all time. And you know who I'm talking about?' The audience pauses, guesses - Trane? Parker? Miles? Pres? Then Lou plays the opening bars of 'What a Wonderful world'. So now everybody knows. Yup, funk is the preacher but jazz, jazz is the teacher.
Pharoah Sanders Sometimes you don't have to be there. The legendary Pharoah Sanders has never played better than he has in recent years.
Just get on to YouTube and watch this - Pharoah Sanders Quartet live in Jazz Middelheim 2008 - it's in three parts. See, you're there.