On Gordon Bok’s “Rosin The Beau”, the great cellist Hank Roberts performs vocal harmonies with his earthy and wooden toned Cello lines as guitarist Jim Yanda kicks the proceedings into an affable all acoustic jazz motif. This and other imaginative renditions of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah”, “Beautiful Dreamer” along with American traditionals such as “She ’ll Be Coming Down The Mountain” and “Shenandoah” comprise some of the 13 pieces on drummer Phil Haynes ambitious and thoroughly refreshing new release titled, Phil Haynes & Free Country.
Phil Haynes is a well-known drummer who has performed with the creme de la creme of modern jazz stylists such as saxophonists Ellery Eskelin, Gebhard Ullmann and many others too numerous in scope to cite here. Along with fellow New York City Downtown/modern jazz musicians - bassist Drew Gress, cellist Hank Roberts and acoustic steel string guitarist Jim Yanda, “Free Country” fuses grassroots Americana with hip, upbeat arrangements that toggle jazz, bluegrass and country. Wonderfully recorded direct-to-stereo, sans amplification Haynes and his cohorts extend or in some situations parallel concepts actualized by guitarist Bill Frisell with his recent forays into Country & Western and Bluegrass.
Sterling resonance and soulful interplay witnessed on “Old Joe Clark” serves as a prime example of the striking sonic characteristics of this recording as Gress’ heavy and explicit bass lines in tandem with Haynes’ equally wooden toned drums emit a gorgeously radiant environment. Throughout, Haynes & Free Country breathe new life into American heritage and traditionalism with this joyous and to a greater extent, ingenious and immaculately executed outing. * * * * 1/2
Phil Haynes; Drums/Percussion: Hank Roberts; Cello, Vocals, Jazzphone Fiddle: Drew Gress; Acoustic Bass: Jim Yanda; Acoustic Steel Guitar.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.