Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band
William Paterson University Jazz Room
March 26th, 2011
Looking at Roy Haynes's oeuvre, over his tremendously prolific career, it becomes apparent that simply being awarded one lifetime achievement award from the Grammy committee may not be enough. For most musicians, being involved in just one of the amazingly diverse musical scenarios in which Haynes has taken partwhether it's Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Andrew Hill, Pat Metheny or Chick Coreawould account for a lifetime's worth of work. Indeed, it seems like the only role that Haynes has not taken, in his nearly 70 years of performing, is that of a retired jazz musician. Haynes's current band, featuring the impressive roster of saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist David Wong and pianist Martin Bejerano, is aptly named the Fountain of Youth Band.
As is the tradition of the William Paterson Jazz Room Series, the program was opened by one of the many student groups at WPU. This group, in particular, led by WPU artistic director Mulgrew Miller, paid tribute to another living legend of jazz, Ornette Coleman, and the late, unsung hero Dewey Redman. In an unusual twist to the typical free jazz format, they utilized not one, but two chordal instruments: North Carolina pianist Chris Pattishall and a student who has already established a name for himself through his involvement with Greg Osby,' New Jersey vibraphonist Michael Pinto. The group intricately and magnificently explored the ins and outs of Coleman and Redman's music, the free jazz setting allowing for maximum personal expression, while requiring the utmost situational awareness.
Michigan-born saxophonist Caleb Wheeler Curtis incorporated Coleman's expressive, sharp-edged alto sound, but rounded the edges to give it a warmer, woody quality. His solos had innate leadership qualities, his cascading melodic lines leading the band in and out of time and tonal center with an advanced melodic sense and a matured control of the alto saxophone. Pinto's solo on Redman's "Love Is" coupled romantic ballad sensibilities with a classical sense of harmonic invention, using his broad color palette to assertivelybut not aggressivelymove into the realm of the free. Bassist Adrian Moring displayed knowledge and maturity far beyond his years, embracing scratchy, right-against-the-bridge textures on Charlie Haden's "Song for the Whales," and a compositionally brilliant solo on Coleman's "Police People." Pattishall was given a prime opportunity to explore his entire repertoire on the breakdown of Coleman's "Tears Inside," which toggled like a radio dial through blues licks, thick block harmony and a sincere, learned stride piano style that sped up and slowed down at will. Nagoya, Japan native Ryo Noritakea drummer who, throughout, had deftly navigated and supported the freedom of the grouptook his solo opportunity in Coleman's "Happy House," mixing up the raw styles and colors of Paul Motian and Billy Higgins, with a story-like organization of rhythmic ideas.
When Haynes's band took the stage, he immediately took the opportunity to show off his stellar cast, with each member playing a mostly unaccompanied solo. Wong displayed his formidable touch, with flowing, pianistic lines that strongly outlined an original harmony. Bejerano chose an arrangement of pointillist, floral piano clusters, while Shaw chose a more linear opening. Haynes, who had been punctuating the intros with drum hits, launched into a solo marked timbral exclamation points, as he briefly dipped into funk, swing and the rumbles of his former contemporaries, Max Roach and Art Blakey.
Haynes's drumming settled into an interesting and remarkable style. He seemed to neither keep time nor completely abandon it. His drumming mimicked the occasions when a drummer will begin to imply polyrhythms or break down the beat to mark intensity, except what made it unique was that these moments happened almost constantly. Shaw's solo on "My Shining Hour" had a bebop foundation, with unflinching shifts into wilder harmonic territory, brandishing sheets of sound like the waving of a flaming torch. Bejarano smartly counteracted, favoring a simple melodic touch that occasionally moved into Shaw's newly broken harmonic ground. Wong further expanded on what he showcased in the beginning of the set, his bouncy touch firmly landing on the low register of his bass.
The Fountain of Youth band proved its freedom of style in addition to harmony. A rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" was played more hard-bop than post-bop, Haynes accenting the melody with strong hits, and giving each "bang" and "crack" time to cool off and resound. Keeping with the soulful interpretation, Bejerano peppered his solo with bluesy accents, while Haynes gave him all the support he needed to make Shorter's tricky chord changes sound as natural and effortless as possible. Most of the pieces ended with a brief epilogue by Haynes, extrapolating as much from the tops, shells and undersides of his drum set as possible, keeping his "Snap Crackle" nickname alive and well.
Haynes then called two songs written by his living collaborator, guitarist Pat Metheny. On "James," the musicians opted to play around the tune's joyous melody, preserving its integrity. "Question and Answer," one of Metheny's more involved compositions, gave each member more to work with. The dramatic, lyrical waltz was traversed by Shaw's soprano, with the fire of early '60s John Coltrane. Bejerano and Shaw punctuated the modal sections with yearning, way inside playing, and harmonically breezed their way through the more complicated sections. Haynes clearly admired the melody's 4/4 over 3/4 technique, and took every opportunity to imply it, almost playing an entire A section in 4/4.
Throughout the show, Haynes maintained a strong stage presence, and established a question-and-answer rapport with the audience, playing Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys," per a request from the crowd. Bejarano's approach to Monk was appropriately spiky, but as is the obligation of all pianists playing Monk, did not merely imitate the legendary pianist's signature style, preferring a rounded out, flowing touch. The set ended with Charlie Chaplin and Al Jolson's standard, "Anniversary Song," with Haynes, at various points, getting up from his drum set and asking for audience participationeither clapping or singing. In any other context, these would have seemed like the gestures in which a wedding DJ might indulge; however, when backed by the ferocious prowess of Haynes and his band, what could have been the hokey attributes of a DJ-for-hire became the affirmation of this drum icon's sprightly disposition: a fountain of youth, fit to overflow.