I know at least one Sonny Rollins zealot who says summer isn’t really complete until he’s watched the maestro blow through one of those high-flying calypsos in some outdoor setting. Could be “St. Thomas,” which the saxophonist cut a half-century ago, and fans would kill to hear him wring dry at this week’s Central Park SummerStage gig. Could be “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” which Rollins recently romped through in Italy. Despite some so-so gigs with so-so bands, when he’s got the wind to his back, that latter song title seems a statement of purpose. Pushing 80, Rollins still has lots of vitality spilling from his horn; combined with the antsy eloquence of his solos, it makes for a wealth of exploratory elaborations. His recent teammates may not be his equals (few improvisers are), but their boss makes up for that by being perpetually on the prowl: scrutinizing melodies, circumnavigating rhythms, perfecting cadenzas. Messing with the norm is a provocateur’s duty. Doing it with consummate grace is an artist’s gift. Keep your fingers crossed—summer’s almost complete.
Wed., Aug. 6, 8 p.m., 2008