Friday, March 11, 2011

Roy Haynes. Still Hip After All These Years

Roy Haynes is of course one of the greatest drummers in the history of jazz who has about played with everyone the past 60 odd years. In the March 2008 issue of Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 302) I reviewed the Dreyfus Jazz Box Set, A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story.  This fabulous set is still available.  My review, from three years ago, follows.

This writer can still remember that weekend in late fall 1976 in Buffalo when this publication’s editor brought Roy Haynes & the Hip Ensemble in to the original Tralfamadore Cafe, a basement jazz room that featured fine local talent as well as brought in a variety of jazz greats of the time. Haynes led a terrific band that included Marcus Fiorello on electric guitar and Hannibal Marvin Peterson on trumpet. What sticks out in my memory over three decades later was not only the sheer joyfulness of the music, but the joyfulness that Haynes played with. I have remarked over the years that if I were a young boy who had been at the gig with my parents, I would have wanted a drum kit the next day.

Dreyfus Jazz, Haynes label for the past 15 years, has just issued this box set with 37 performances (over 3 and 1/2 hours) over three discs with a bonus DVD of interview and performance. Starting with 1949 recordings with Lester Young and Bud Powell, the music on the box takes us up through his contemporary recordings with his Fountain of Youth quartets in 2006. One wonders if even a decade ago one company would have found other recording companies cooperating and licensing the material for this set. Through the musical journey we find him with nearly every major jazz performer of the past six decades including Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Jack DeJohnette, Stan Getz, Roland Kirk, Eric Dolphy, Chick Corea and Andrew Hill; as well as see him nurse such young talents as Hannibal Marvin Peterson, George Cables, Donald Harrison, and Christian McBride. It perhaps should not be surprising that when Rollins wanted a drummer to help him celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his Carnegie Hall Debut, he called on Haynes to fill that chair; or that he was John Coltrane’s drummer of choice when Elvin Jones was unavailable.

As for the music, what can one say listening to his sizzling cymbal work behind Lester Young on the opening Ding Dong, or his crisp work on the classic Bouncin’ with Bud, and the call and response type playing behind Coltrane in Newport on My Favorite Things. And while that track, like Monk’s Rhythm-A-Ning from Monk’s Live at the Five Spot (with Johnny Griffin on tenor sax), and Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments from The Blues and the Abstract Truth will be familiar to many, there are sure to be surprises like the marvelous 1997 reunion with Gary Burton (and Dave Holland and Chick Corea) Question and Answer, or the support behind vocalists Sarah Vaughan (How High the Moon) and Etta Jones (her original Don’t Go the Strangers). The more recent recordings include a remarkable rendition of Greensleeves by his Fountain of Youth Ensemble. The DVD includes a video from an Ashley Kahn interview of Haynes who talks about his drum sound, playing with Coltrane and other matters of interest followed by a marvelous video of Haynes and his Fountain of Youth Ensemble in performance followed by Haynes doing a drum solo from a 1973 Highlights of Jazz Concert.

Ashley Kahn provides succinct and astute commentary in the accompanying booklet. Perhaps the only negative may be the folding digipak for the CDs which feels a little flimsy, but otherwise this collection provides us with an overview of one of the premiere drummers of the past several decades and is highly recommended.

I received a review copy either from Jazz & Blues Report or a publicist for the record label.

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