Eighty-one years old and becoming exceedingly frail, Sonny Rollins still throws himself into his tenor saxophone onstage. It’s actually a little frightening to see a man of grandfatherly age thrusting head and shoulders down towards his horn with force that would cause back spasms in much younger men. Then again, listen to the sounds he’s making. Rollins’ sax tone is a brazen—at times even vulgar—display of muscle. His rhythms are not just powerful, but unique, and Rollins finds new uses for space and accent in tunes he’s played since adolescence. Spry young accompanists scramble to keep up. The 2011 Kennedy Center honoree chews melodies to bits and reassembles them, Frankenstein-like, before bringing them back home. Rollins’ body may be aging, but it channels his energy just as vitally as his horn.
Sonny Rollins performs at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. $35-85. (202) 785-9727.