Sonny's Dance In The Dark


Now part of Concord's Digital Catalog, Dancing In The Dark (Milestone, 1987) captures the typically bright, genre-spanning sound of the late 1980s Sonny Rollins band, which featured bassist Jerome Harris and trombonist Clifton Anderson (Rollins' nephew) funking up the engine room, plus keyboardist Mark Soskin, all propelled by drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith.

Rollins begins the title track with unaccompanied verses that twist its familiar melody into knots, unknots it just in time for the rest of his ensemble to dive right in, and then juxtaposes abstract modern with dance jazz playing in his subsequent, gargantuan solo. "Duke Of Iron," particularly Anderson's cheerful solo, returns Rollins to the warm Caribbean sunshine of his classic "St. Thomas," as does "I'll String Along With You."

First a pop hit sung by James Ingram for a Quincy Jones solo album, "Just Once" proves that Rollins can build strong and muscular jazz upon even the frothiest pop confection, with improvisations that stretch the melody out so far that they reshape it. "O.T.Y.O.G." delivers this set's most bracing and substantive jazz: After the band collectively scales its melody, each soloist dances across its peaks. Rollins barely pauses to gather breath while his gusher of ideas overflows.

Soskin's tenure with Rollins actually spanned three decades, from the late 1970s (Don't Stop The Carnival,'78), through the '80s (G-Man, '87) and into the '90s (Here's To The People, '91). Anderson also appears on his uncle's This Is What I Do (2000, all for Milestone).