An Evening With Roy Haynes at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Fresh off his participation in Sonny Rollins’ 80th birthday gala at the Beacon Theater two weeks earlier, drumming legend Roy Haynes had his own special day before a packed house at spacious Rose Theater in celebration of his 85th birthday. (Haynes had been feted earlier this year during a week-long engagement at the Blue Note around the time of his actual birthday on March 13).
By now all the slogans about the miraculous Mr. Haynes have become well-worn clichés – that he’s an “ageless wonder” who has “found the fountain of youth” and plays with a “seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy and ideas.” And they’re all true. People stood in awe of Haynes’ relentless creativity, boundless enthusiasm and sheer hipness on the kit 15 years ago. Like many, I have stopped wondering how long he can carry on at such a high level and have come to accept the fact that he will outlive us all and continue swinging for an eternity, like a bebop version of the vampire Lestat.
A longstanding clothes horse going back to 1960, when Esquire magazine named him one of the Best Dressed Men in America along with Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Cary Grant, Haynes took the stage this Saturday evening with his aptly-named Fountain of Youth band decked out in sartorial splendor (black velvet pants, white coat, snakeskin cowboy boots, wrap-around shades, which he kept on throughout the set to convey a tone of Miles-like enigma while still being approachable, good natured and charming).
Alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, who has been in the band now for five years, has emerged as a bona fide star; a mini-Cannonball with one foot in a Trane bag. His intensely swinging alto work on the energized opener, Chick Corea’s bebop paean, “Bud Powell,” set an aggressive tone alongside Haynes’ unpredictable ‘snap crackle’ on the snare and thunderous, rolling tom tom fills. Shaw switched to soprano on “Inner Trust” and engaged in an expressive duo with bassist David Wong midway through the moody piece (composed by Haynes’ former pianist, Dave Kikoski). Pianist Martin Bejerano, a reliable rhythmic accompanist and remarkable soloist, also paired off with Wong for an arresting duet while Haynes stood watching and listening intently, hovering around his kit and occasionally punctuating their dialoguing with a gentle tap of a rim or cymbal. When the leader returned to deliver a solo of his own, he carved out an original statement on the kit that had more to do with creating drama than showcasing chops…though he was saving that for later in the evening.
A stirring, unaccompanied alto intro by Shaw next led into a relaxed, wistful rendition of “Autumn Leaves,” underscored by Haynes’ exquisite brushwork. Bejerano turned in a glistening piano solo on this jazz standard and Wong added a wonderfully lyrical bass solo. Next up was Haynes’ drumming tour de force, his clever arrangement of Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Injecting a 12/8 rhythm underneath this Yiddish flavored number was an inspired notion to begin with, but Haynes really opened up the form on his expanded edition which had the great drummer cutting up the beat in endless variations before delving into a free jazz vibe while Shaw channeled some Impulse-era Trane energy on the alto sax. What started out as a smart riff on a novelty number turned into a vehicle for some transcendent soloing and heightened expression.
In this first set with the Fountain of Youth band, Haynes was also featured on Chick Corea’s “Like This,” a tune which the composer devised specifically with Roy’s quick-wristed drum fills in mind.
Following an intermission (and a change of clothes), Haynes returned with an all-star aggregation featuring alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist Dave Holland and special guest Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. There were various past hook-ups between the musicians in this quintet. Haynes and Perez had previously played together in a trio with bassist John Patitucci (documented on a 2-CD set for Verve in 2000). Holland and Garrett were part of Roy’s Charlie Parker tribute band that recorded Birds of a Feather in 2001 for Dreyfus Jazz. More recently, Haynes and Garrett played together this year in Chick Corea’s Freedom Band. Together these five stars established instant chemistry coming out of the gate on a rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Grand Street,” fueled by Haynes’ irrepressible yet unobtrusive swing factor and Holland’s unerring pulse on the upright bass.
On a jaunty rendition of “Monk’s Dream,” Garrett freely quoted from Monk’s “Nutty” and the Tin Pan Alley tune “Without a Song” (which Rollins covered on his landmark recording, The Bridge). Marsalis also turned in a bristling, bright toned solo on this familiar Monk theme. During a spirited take on Monk’s “Bright Mississippi,” Perez suddenly tweaked the proceedings with a lively son montuno groove while Holland switched into tumbao mode on the bass.
One of the highpoints of their set was Marsalis’ dynamic, unaccompanied trumpet salvo leading into a heartfelt rendition of “Stardust,” underscored by Haynes’ sublime brushwork. This ballad feature was then passed over to Garrett who smoothly segued right into a beautiful reading of the melancholy “We’ll Be Together Again.” They closed in exhilarating fashion with a burning version of Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” which had Garrett dipping deep into his Pharoah Sanders bag for some unbridled blowing in the middle section. This urgently swinging number culminated with some fiery exchanges of eights between Marsalis and Garrett. Sparks flew and the audience roared its approval.
After an ecstatic standing ovation following the completion of the set, Haynes seemed genuinely touched. “You’re making me feel like this is my last time,” he teased them. “Damn!”
by Bill Milkowski