Leave it to Roy Haynes to do the unexpected. On the night of March 23, 2003 at the beautiful Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, he sends out the Heath Brothers to play a tribute to Charlie Parker and bebop in general – the tribute he was scheduled to do – and then spends most of the night showcasing the talents of others. No Buddy Rich grandstanding for Mr. Haynes, he let Messrs. McBride, Payton, Garrett, and Kikoski (no it’s not a law firm) show why they are the new breed, destined to become the future elder statesmen of the music we call jazz.
The ever cool, ever stylish Roy Haynes was in his element – I mean his outfit had to be silk – a light cream colored matching shirt and pants that just draped over his looks-like-38-not-78-year-old frame, with slit cuffs sporting buttons up the calf and what had to be alligator shoes (matching of course). He was not to be outdone by the powerfully talented younger men on stage. Every snare hit was crackling, that flat-ride cymbal singing, the crash cymbals washing over you in accents – always perfectly timed – the double floor toms accommodating the syncopated Africa-by-way-of-Boston-by-way-of-New York pounding whose deep dark tones took up residence in your chest and reminded you of the place from whence this music originated.
Roy opened the show by paying his respects to Bird by romping through “Yardbird Suite”. The trading 8’s, then 4’s, then 2’s, then counterpoint between Nicholas Payton and Kenny Garrett was classic bebop – all of it improvised but always tied in to the underlying structure of the tune. (If you weren’t there you can catch this great display of chops on the Haynes CD - Birds of a Feather ). The group then launched into a beautiful rendition of “Star Eyes” – not a Parker tune but clearly one of the great jazz standards as the crowd’s response attested to. Kikoski was brilliant on piano – his colors are amazing and his rhythmic sense matches Roy’s – and that’s saying something. Next up was a tune from Haynes’ Praise CD called “Inner Trust” (the poignant Kikoski intro isn’t on the CD but neither is the Payton improv that’s why you go to live shows, right?).
From there on out the guys created – and I mean created out of thin air – the most spectacular jazz the rest of the night. I don’t know the names of the rest of the tunes because by then I just got lost in the beauty of Kikoski’s chords, the erupting high-notes of Payton’s Nat-Adderly-like trumpet, Garrett’s Bird-like runs on the alto, and – wow, maybe most of all – McBride’s luxurious, thick bass lines – you felt the low notes in your throat and followed every tone up and down and around the scales. It was just beautiful. We gave them a standing “O” and they came back for one more tune and we gave them another standing “O” and they bowed and left. The true jazzheads, especially the young kids in their high school jackets, long hair, and jeans – did not want to go home because in fact, they were home.
In an unexpected way Roy Haynes did in fact play a tribute to Charlie Parker. By playing jazz in a modern way, in his own style, with the Dizzy, Bird, Bud, and Paul of today, he surprised us all and got to the meaning of what it means to pay tribute to someone you respect and honor. Bird was surely smiling.
Roy Haynes 2003 AAJ Interview
Jimmy Katz and Sputnik
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