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 Thursday, 26 November 2015
Time Defined, Time Defied: Roy Haynes at the Artists Quarter PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 27 January 2006

“Hayne’s brash watchfulness keeps his music in a state of suspended agitation—he makes listeners and musicians feel secure and wary at the same time. He commands the drums and the rhythm like a general looking over a field, apparently willing to try anything and confident he has the discipline to make it work.”—Gary Giddens, Village Voice

Photo by Andrea Canter
Photo by Andrea Canter

Roy Haynes enjoys the Artists Quarter. He adores owner (and drummer) Kenny Horst—in fact he once gave Horst a set of drums, the same drums he played during his recent three-night stand/live recording session at the downtown St. Paul club. And he loves finding and promoting hot young talent, which he proudly put in the spotlight throughout the weekend. These days Haynes calls his quartet The Fountain of Youth, but that’s not quite accurate. It’s more like a geyser, an eruption of steam and energy. And the molten source is the 81-year-old drummer himself.

A student of the 1940s and 50s street academies of Armstrong, Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Powell, and Coltrane, Haynes has established his own “college” of jazz performance, fueling the careers of Ralph Moore, David Kikoski, Marcus Strickland, and (son) Graham Haynes, among others. With Strickland “graduating” to leading his own bands, Haynes wasted no time recruiting a new horn player, alto sensation Jaleel Shaw. And on the recommendation of recent protégé Martin Bejerano, Haynes debuted pianist Robert Rodriguez at the AQ. Original Fountain of Youth cadet John Sullivan continues to put down the basslines. Figure his three young collaborators combined are younger than Haynes— while the drummer has spent more than sixty years managing and rearranging time, he has somehow kept Father Time at bay.

Photo by Andrea Canter
Roy with Kenny Horst, Photo by Andrea Canter

It was a rare two-set/three-night gig at the Artists Quarter; most without advance reservations were turned away. Kenny and Dawn Horst were in constant motion, looking for one more bar stool, one more table to seat just one more eager patron. More densely packed than the AQ New Year’s Eve Party a few weeks earlier, the atmosphere was equally festive. Any appearance by Roy Haynes is cause for celebration, and further, the Mayor of St. Paul had issued a proclamation declaring this Roy Haynes Weekend. Haynes already owned the club and the audience; now it was officially his weekend. And from the first notes of the opening set to the last blast of the final tag late Sunday night, The Fountain of Youth was the center of universe.

Each set was well constructed if not altogether planned ahead, combining fast and explosive classics of Monk’s “Green Chimneys” and “Twinkle Trinkle” and bouncing romps through (former Haynes pianist) Kikoski’s “Inner Trust” and Charlie Parker’s “Diverse” with more lyrical covers of Metheny’s “Question and Answer” and such standards as “My Romance” and a very lovely “Body and Soul.” Haynes often turned to his young cohorts for suggestions, encouraging them to shine on their own as well as with the ensemble—Rodriguez soloing on an increasingly complex reading of Chick Corea’s “Windows;” Sullivan opting for Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” and Shaw bringing down the house with a bluesy traverse of Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy.” Like a proud pop (or grandpop), Haynes frequently let loose with his own applause and big smile.

Photo by Andrea Canter
Jaleel and John, Photo by Andrea Canter

Haynes himself provides the definitive description of his approach to these arrangements:

“I structure pieces like riding a horse,” he says. “You pull a rein here, you tighten it up here, you loosen it there. I'm still sitting in the driver's seat, so to speak. I let it loose, I let it go, I see where it's going and what it feels like. Sometimes I take it out, sometimes I'll be polite, nice and let it move and breathe -- always in the pocket and with feeling. So the music is tight but loose.” And in each set, the band loosened the reins a bit more, the finale a maelstrom of joyous abandon. Robert Rodriguez in particular seemed a bit tentative on the first few numbers of Friday’s opening set—maybe a bit intimidated by the idea of playing with an idol. But by the end of the first night, and most noticeably by Sunday night, the young pianist was relaxing in a hot groove, initial hesitations replaced by an assertive attack, clean articulation, and confident soloing, his angular lines and chord combinations adding a Latin touch to “Twinkle Trinkle,” hefty basslines and deft climbing scales highlighting his solitary effort on “Windows.” Ever the mentor, Haynes wisely kept Rodriguez at arms length early on, pushing him a bit further and further as the weekend moved along.

Jaleel Shaw garnered a truckload of honors as a student at Berklee; his first recording (Perspective, Fresh Sound) was named one of the top five debuts of 2005 (All About Jazz). And his AQ debut met and exceeded all expectations. On alto or soprano, he coaxed a menagerie of sound, from the sweet impassioned tones of such ballads as “My Romance,” “What’s New,” and “Body and Soul,” to the twists and squeals of “Doxy” to the wailing spirals of “Twinkle Trinkle.” At once he exudes sheer lung power, rhythmic virtuosity, and harmonic invention, often bopping and weaving, his body language seemingly directing each note, each dramatic climb to the top and bottom of the horn. He brought powerful eccentricity to “Bemsha Swing,” swinging energy to “Summer Night,” furious phrasing to “Diverse,” well-placed minor harmonies to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and a beautiful cadenza to close “Question and Answer.”

Bassists are too-often overlooked, but Haynes makes sure that each audience gets a good dose of John Sullivan. Like Shaw, he is a very physical musician, literally dancing with the big box, pulling it back, pushing it down, bouncing on his feet while his hands engage the strings in feats of legerdemain. Sullivan took at least one solo on every tune, ferociously walking across “Diverse,” lyrically engaging on “What’s New,” and demonstrating his wide range of tone and harmonies on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge.”

Photo by Andrea Canter
Robert ROdreguez, Photo by Andrea Canter

“I don't want to overplay. I like the guys to trade, and I just keep it moving, and spread the rhythm, as Coltrane said. Keep it moving, keep it crisp." Roy Haynes’ philosophy was ever present throughout the three nights. His young cohorts were continuously in the spotlight, much to his apparent delight. Yet it was Haynes in the drivers’ seat, Haynes who propelled every tune with the energy of a teenager and the wisdom of the prophet. Noted Kenny Horst, “he’s the heavyweight champion.” Certainly there is no finer array of artillery than what Roy Haynes brings to the trapset, and he is a master strategist. Area drummer Steve Hirsh commented that “Roy never plays an unnecessary note—it all counts.” Haynes never holds back, which is not to say that he is constantly pounding. Rather, he is perpetually engaged in “drive” and never allows a pattern to become routine, be it spanking the ride cymbal, jiggering the hi-hats, swatting the toms, or spit-firing the snare. He maintains the pulse while frequently dropping accenting pops and crashes, seeming to never cross the same path twice, often enticing his partners to duel, his own solos outlining melody and harmony independent of other voices. In live performance one has the opportunity to not only hear the shapes of his figures but to see the artful ballet he creates—Haynes is the penultimate choreographer of percussion.

Special moments came nonstop throughout the weekend, but perhaps one of the most memorable was the tune the band created on the spot. In his bantering with the audience, Haynes noted that “It Feels Like a Dream” to be on the bandstand at the AQ. Deciding this was a great song title, the band took off on a joint improvisation effort yielding a joyful melody initially shaped by Shaw’s alto conversing with Rodriguez’ plucked strings, colored by Haynes’ assorted clinks and clatters and a deeply resonating solo from Sullivan. Shaw shifted the rhythm to a samba-like groove, adding a bit of buzz to his vibrato that gave the piece an edgy feel as it twirled toward resolution. It was like watching the spontaneous combustion of the Big Bang.


Throughout the weekend the band played at least three renditions of “Summer Night,” a standout track on Fountain of Youth, and each time the music seemed to crest at a higher level. Closing out the last set (before returning for an encore), Rodriguez gave the Dubin/Warren gem a new twist, with dissonant chords, blitzkrieg runs, and a montuno figure that complemented Shaw’s out-of-orbit spin. Haynes, appropriately, had the last word—or more accurately, the last volley. But the audience refused to call it quits, a long ovation finally answered by an even more raucous, exuberant reprise of “Doxey.”

Taking their final bows and toasting the weekend with champagne, the three twenty-somethings look spent; the unflagging octogenarian Roy Haynes looked relaxed and satisfied. We were breathless.

“He defies time, doesn’t he?” –Chick Corea

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