How many hands does Joel Haynes have? If you answered (two) correctly, you may have serious doubts when you listen to Transitions (Cellar Live, 2008). Haynes appears to hear many different rhythms concurrently and uses every limb at his disposal to bring them to life. He is able to create an intense rattle at his snare, clunk a stick at its rim, roll onto the tom-tom, let fly at the cymbals adding splashes of brazen color to a harmonic backdrop and tantalize with sonic bombs with thunderous contrapuntal thuds at the bass drum. All while smacking the high-hat periodically to close down the echo of a phrase. Joel Haynes is the quintessential master of rhythm.
Haynes is reminiscent of Paul Motian's work in the classic Bill Evans trio. Like Motian who was omnipresent when that trio laid down a song, Haynes is quietly dominant when his trio breaks out into song. He also has the magical ability to become "the song" and when he does, can be quietly cooperative yet createevery once and a whilea dramatic flash, foray outward from the center or create layered rhythms like spirals inside the melody of the songs. A master of interplay like the very best practitioners, he is a wonderful listener who picks up cues from his cohorts (and provides them) as he coaxes them to stretch beyond the conventional boundaries of song. Haynes also has a magical way of creating inner rhythms; within the melodic line of songs he plays through a wonderful sense of metaphorical phrasing.
Transitions is a wonderful record. It pulsates with exuberant energy throughout. There is a symbiotic relationship between the players that can be expected between musiciansespecially Haynes, bassist Proznick and pianist Webb, who came through classroom, recording studio and live gigs together. They contribute unforgettable charts but the real surprise is the way special guest, Seamus Blake, binds together with the group. It is as if the tenor saxophonist had always been an integral member of the band. He never tries to draw attention to himself but brings his magnificent tone to the recording making it roar with extraordinary power from end to end. Blake is especially excellent on the Haynes original, "Impress Me," a respectful tribute to John Coltrane and romping on the chord changes of the master's "Impressions." The energy on this chart is palpable in a Coltranesque way and Blake sets the tune on fire with an intense solo, exchanging masterful ideas with Haynes on the back end of the song.
This record also serves notice that Jodi Proznick and Tilden Webb deserve wider recognition than they currently accorded: Proznick, for her special muscularity as a bassist and Webb for his incredibly sensitive artistry. Transitions is bristling with boundless energy.
Track Listing: Transitions; House of Haynes; Champagne Supernova; The Wobbler; Here And Now; L'Espace (for Laurine); Always There; Impress Me.
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