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 Tuesday, 25 November 2014
“Where As,” Roy Haynes Rules… at Dizzy’s PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Saturday, 19 August 2006

He’s the heavyweight champion.” – Kenny Horst

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Roy Haynes © Andrea Canter

In January 2006, legendary drummer Roy Haynes brought his quartet of young lions to St. Paul’s Artists Quarter for three nights to mark his 80th birthday. With a proclamation of “Roy Haynes Week” from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Haynes’ celebration was captured live by Dreyfus and now released as Where As. And “where as” there is no active drummer today who can match Haynes’s energy and musical leadership, this latest recording from his “Fountain of Youth” band is in itself a cause for celebration, and the festivities get underway August 22-27 with a party at Dizzy’s, the intimate space at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

A student of the 1940s and 50s street academies of Armstrong, Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Powell, and Coltrane, Haynes now “passes it on” through his own “college” of jazz performance, fueling the careers of Ralph Moore, David Kikoski, Marcus Strickland, and (son) Graham Haynes, among others. His “Fountain of Youth” band which has been performing and recording over the past few years originally included Strickland on tenor, Martin Bejerano on piano, and John Sullivan on bass. Now with Strickland and Bejerano frequently booked with their own projects, Haynes wasted no time recruiting a new horn player, alto sensation Jaleel Shaw. And on the recommendation of Bejerano, Haynes debuted pianist Robert Rodriguez at the Artists Quarter, while original bassist Sullivan made the gig.

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Roy Haynes © Andrea Canter

Where As features music culled from the tapes of six sets over three sold-out nights. What separates this live recording from many others is the preservation of audience response—much of the applause and shouts remain, giving the recording a definite “you are there” feel and the sense of an intimate conversation between musicians and listeners. Yet the sound engineering is clean and crisp—as a member of that audience for five of the six sets, hearing this CD immediately takes me back to one of the most energetic gigs of my live listening career. The mood was festive, the musicians “in the moment,” the audience enthralled.

There was a diverse playlist to draw from for the final cut, and with nearly 70 minutes of music, eight tracks provide a reasonable sampling of the six sets. Haynes likes to rework the great classics of bop, from Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” and Parker’s “Segment” to Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” and Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” adding in modern masterpieces from Chick Corea (“Like This”), Steve Swallow (“True or False” in tandem with Monk) and Pat Metheny (“James”) as well as a sultry blues from Cole Porter (“My Heart Belongs to Daddy”) and an original drum solo (“Hippidy Hop”). 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.” An apt description of the entire recording.

Jaleel Shaw © Andrea Canter

Haynes’ energy across the three nights and throughout the resulting 8 selections defy his eighty years. 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. “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." Haynes’ philosophy is reflected on every track.

And as displayed on Where As, the Fountain of Youth band might more properly be renamed The Eruption of Youth, be it the sultry darkness of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” the spiraling rumblings of “Inner Urge,” the majestic joy of “James,” or the all-out attack of “Segment.” Individually, each musician contributes key elements to the whole. Recent Berklee graduate Jaleel Shaw, on alto or soprano, simultaneously exudes sheer lung power, rhythmic virtuosity, and harmonic invention, taking each dramatic climb to the top and bottom of the horn. He brought powerful eccentricity to “Bemsha Swing,” furious phrasing to “Segment,” well-placed minor harmonies to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” swinging energy to “James.” In his Fountain of Youth debut, young pianist Robert Rodriguez displayed an assertive attack, clean articulation, and confident soloing, tearing up the keyboard with a staccato attack here and a glissando run there on the opening “Mr. PC,” punctuating “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” with angular lines and phrases, and on “Bemsha Swing/True or False,” building layer upon layer of ideas is if they grew from his fingertips. And Haynes makes sure that John Sullivan doesn’t fall victim to the frequent fate of the bassists, giving the man behind the big box plenty of solo space that dares the audience to ignore his work. On record or on stage, Sullivan never strays into obscurity, vamping with melodramatic whine on “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” lyrically engaging on “James,” ferociously walking across “Segment,” and demonstrating his wide range of tone and harmonies on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge.”

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John Sullivan © Andrea Canter

While his young cohorts are continuously in the spotlight, Roy Haynes is in the drivers’ seat, propelling every tune with the energy of a teenager and the wisdom of the prophet. And certainly, there is no finer array of artillery than what Haynes brings to the trapset, and he is a master strategist, never holding back, yet not one to merely pound away from start to finish. 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. The only thing missing from the audio recording is the opportunity to watch the ballet that Haynes creates, as he is the penultimate choreographer of percussion.

In keeping with Haynes’ philosophy of mentoring and collaborating, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Listen to the standard “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Sullivan’s whiney march sets the tone for Shaw’s mournful minor wander through the head, the bassist continuing an ostinato vamp throughout while Haynes accents every chord. Rodriguez develops an abstract improvisation over the punchy percussion, followed by Shaw’s second round, swirling and spinning, squealing and honking before a quiet recession. Sullivan’s bassline becomes more assertive, while Shaw reprises the mournful restraint of his first verse, turning up the heat a bit on the outchorus. Taking a more subtle route to the final destination, Haynes adds a clave-like pulse with sticks on sticks as Shaw flutters the last few notes; Sullivan takes it out as darkly as he began.

Robert Rodriguez © Andrea Canter

“James” swings as Shaw carries the melody and Rodriguez gives it a few twists hinting of the blues. Haynes as always throws punches right and left but with no wasted efforts and Sullivan builds a resonant mesh throughout. Overall it’s a grand ensemble effort with a majestic sheen.

The final track, Charlie Parker’s high-flying “Segment” moves along like a locomotive gathering steam thanks to Shaw’s increasingly furious phrasing and the heavy undercurrent of the rhythm section. The train is well along its route when Rodriguez takes the controls with a bop-informed improv over some of Haynes’ most aggressive percussion on the disc, filling every crevice with some sonic notion (often several at once). The pianist’s runs literally scale the fence in both directions. Shaw and Rodriguez then engage in a duel, alternating fours, then twos, and upping the ante each round until they join together for a blistering final run. Haynes throws in his own coda to close the recording as the crowd’s applause signals a demand for more. No more here, but there was plenty more in January at the Artists Quarter. Surely enough for volume two?

Roy Haynes and Kenny Horst © Andrea Canter

The CD Release Party at Dizzy’s will include Haynes and Shaw, along with long-time Fountain of Youth pianist Martin Bejerano and a newcomer on bass, David Wong. Bejerano has been increasingly busy with the Marcus Strickland Quartet and Daniel Smith’s “Bebop Bassoon” project. Described as “a wonderfully responsive player, a musical listener whose interaction with his colleagues is instinctive, thoughtful and thoroughly supportive” (Richton Guy Thomas, All About Jazz), it will be like old times when Bejerano takes his seat at the piano. Julliard graduate David Wong, winner of numerous awards as a high school and college student, has played with Wynton Marsalis, John Faddis, Illinois Jacquet, Christian McBride, Eric Reed and Paula West, and most recently has worked with Bejerano in the Marcus Strickland Quartet and with the Pete Zimmer Quintet.

It’s a party with a living legend and legends in the making. Make it to Dizzy’s, the beautifully intimate club setting within Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th, off Columbus Circle in Manhattan, August 22-27, sets at 7:30 and 9:30 pm; visit www.jalc.org



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