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Live Reviews

Umbria Jazz: Days 7-10, July 16-19, 2009

By Published: July 27, 2009
Taylor's music, and his performances thereof, have not defied expectations for a good thirty years. His audience knows what he sounds like; Taylor knows what they want from him, and between those two trajectories surprises are rare. That need not be a bad thing. Why split hairs over how to deliver a message like "Shower the people you love with love?"

(As for myself, by the time "Carolina in my Mind" finished, I had a lump in my throat.)

July 19—Roy Haynes Trio

A number of drummers have a melodic quality to their playing, but rare is the musician who can make the traps sing the way Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
does. That's especially true when he has a tight and dexterous combo like his current trio, with bassist John Patitucci
John Patitucci
John Patitucci
and pianist Dave Kikoski}. (Umbria's program actually lists Haynes' regular pianist, {{Danilo Perez, as part of the concert, but an injury has prevented Perez from touring.) Their noontime concert Sunday at Teatro Morlacchi was, bar none, the best performance of the 2009 Umbria Jazz Festival.

Haynes came out looking incredibly cool in shades and a white jacket over black pinstriped shirt, clearly in fine spirits and ready for action; the same was true for his bandmates, even if they weren't so sharply dressed. After some individual exercises, they launched into "Sneakin' Around" swinging like nobody's business; Haynes' ride cymbal surely rivaled any other for the title of swingingest ever, and at one point he began tapping out the beat with both sticks on the hi-hat behind an intricate, relentlessly talkative Patitucci solo.

Kikoski hit "Sneakin' Around" with a showy but nonetheless superlative solo; on the mid-tempo "Reflection" he replicated the superlative without the showy. Patitucci, too, followed his earlier success, this time with fleet, nimble complexities that nonetheless showed a surprising lyricism. Haynes maintained his soft touch, riding the cymbals and giving off inventive but very light accents on the snare, almost as if he were playing brush; when it was his turn to solo, though, he fired off a machine-gun round on snare and kick with accents on tom and crash cymbals. Haynes' use of the bass drum is particularly remarkable: frequent and distinctive without overpowering.

"Easy to Remember," a ballad, was the closest the band came to impropriety—all three got carried away on the solos, amping up the speed and intensity without taking the tune's gentle setting into account. Haynes was the worst offender, but also the best: His solo played the toms with mallets, creating a timbre like kettle drums, and if his energy got the best of mood, moving into a marathon on the rims of the toms and the snare, he also seemed lost in his own thoughts, as though the drums were a vehicle for meditation. It was awesome, in the most literal sense. And Haynes also seems to have caught himself; he used the juiced solo to segue into the more upbeat "True or False."

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays' "James" was the most nearly flawless of all the trio's tunes. Kikoski played the theme as a Ramsey Lewis-style, gospel-flavored jazz, and the solo Patitucci topped him with was sublime—not a note could have been better chosen or articulated. There were two other performances nearly as fine: "Trinkle Tinkle," in which Kikoski played stretched out, crashing chords that surely made Monk sit up, wide-eyed, in his grave, and the encore "Blues on the Corner," with Haynes' vocal ride dominating Kikoski's eight cool choruses and Patitucci's five fierce, in-the-pocket ones before Haynes himself charged forth with a single, macho break featuring the hard accents that Kikoski had placed on his keys. On the return to the head, Haynes chose the thematic route, playing Tyner's triplets on his skins along with Kikoski and Patitucci in a smart conclusion to the song and the show.

At 84, Haynes is the last veteran of the Charlie Parker quintets—still outplaying and outswinging drummers a quarter his age. If most gigs even approached this one's level of energy and thrills, we'd have world peace.

July 19—B.B. King

John Scofield

John Scofield
John Scofield
's evening Piety Street set was awful —overcooked, contrived blue-eyed soul via 100-year-old gospel songs from New Orleans. This writer left very early in the set, not wishing to end the festival on such a low note... and knowing that an excellent capper to the fest was virtually guaranteed.

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