If drummer Louis Hayes intended to recreate the classic sounds of, well, Louis Hayes recordings on The Time Keeper, he succeeded. In a set of tunes that includes two penned by Hayes, two by saxophonist Abraham Burton, and two by pianist Horace Silver for good measure, Hayes reminds why he's been a leaderand a leading sidemanfor so many years.
As a time keeper, Hayes is impeccable. Never as boisterous as Art Blakey or as subtle as Philly Joe Jones, he's a recognizable voice on drums and, at 71, he's energetic; playing with passion, creativity, and still swinging.
As a composer, Hayes' tunes show his grounding in the post-bop jazz of the late '50s and '60s. While not at break-neck speeds, they're up-tempo tunes, built around some memorable heads.
Hayes also surrounds himself with very capable young musicians on this release. Burton carries a lot of music, serving most often as leading soloist after playing the heads on seven of the nine tracks.
That leaves pianist Helio Alves, bassist Santi DeBriano and vibraphonist Steve Nelson to fill out the rest, which they do marvelously. As a backing unit, they are solid and flexible, with Alves and Nelson both capable of picking up the melody if needed.
The solos are as solid as Hayes' timekeeping, too. Alves is a top-notch player, and Burton plays well on tunes running the gamut from Silver's "The Preacher" to "Double Rainbow" by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Burton also shows his compositional depth with "It's To You" and "Abellino." Both give Alves' the lead-off solo, and he works through a couple of choruses on "It's To You" with interesting outside playing, chordal blocks and a little blues riffing. This sets up Burton to continue exploring outside the tunes harmony, before DeBriano takes a turn.
Burton's "Abellino" is a near-ballad, played richly with Hayes' steady hi-hat tapping, to a slow bridge embellished by Alves playing arpeggios. Before Alves' solo, Burton comps lightly in the background, giving a little extra depth to the tune.
Hayes is obviously not intent on resting on his laurels, choosing instead to work with a strong group of young musicians.
Personnel: Louis Hayes: drums; Abraham Burton: saxophone; Santi DeBriano: bass; Helio Alves: piano; Steve Nelson: vibraphone.