The Return! is certainly well-named, as it is drummer Joel Haynes' third album as leader of his own group but the first in fifteen years, following Cellar Music recordings The Time Is Now (2005) and Transitions (2008). During his long absence from a recording studio, however, Toronto-based Haynes has managed to stay busy, performing with many of the finest jazz artists in Canada and appearing at jazz festivals and other events in North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe.
On The Return!, Haynes leads an all-star quartet whose other members are tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Tilden Webb and bassist Neil Swainson. No slackers in that lineup. Blake in particular warrants special applause, as he carries much of the melodic load and never once drops the ball. His teammates, meanwhile, give him ample room to run, forming an earnest and effective rhythmic phalanx.
The playlist consists of five original compositions by Haynes, a couple by Webb, John Lennon/Paul McCartney's "Tomorrow Never Knows" and one outlier, "Angel." There are two flag-wavers, Webb's "There and Back" and Haynes' "Payback," the last of which the group saves for its closing number. Webb swings hard on both tracks, while Blake delivers dazzling solos and Haynes and Swainson show they are master hands at any tempo.
"Tomorrow," not one of the Beatles' better-known themes, is a pleasant groover on which Webb takes another tasteful solo, leading to more of the same by Blake who clearly brought his "A-game" to the session. Swainson, one of Canada's premier sidemen, also solos admirably, while Haynes keeps his usual flawless time. Webb's placid "Secret Garden" is next, followed by Haynes' sunlit "Allure," the easygoing "Angel" (arranged by Webb) and the emphatic "Payback."
While it has been a long time between recordings for Haynes, The Return! is well worth the wait. An appetizing slice of contemporary post-bop jazz.
The Return; Peregrination; There and Back; Tomorrow Never Knows; Secret Garden; Allure;
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