Jazz CD Reviews
Roy Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band – “Whereas” – Dreyfus Records
Published on October 7, 2006
(Roy Haynes, drums / Jaleel Shaw, saxophones / Robert Rodriguez, piano / John Sullivan, bass)
Oh Boy! This release is a hard bop/post bop/percussion lover’s dream date. It was recorded live in St. Paul, Minnesota during a string of dates during Roy Haynes Weekend as officially declared by the mayor. Mr. Haynes was assuredly beaming and the audience obviously absolutely loved the performance. You can pick up the so-cool vibe staring at the group action photo while soaking in a monster small club jazz show. Easily the best live jazz recording I’ve heard this year.
Roy Haynes has become the modern day jazz equivalent to the swaggering, arrogant, braggart rappers. He’s quoted as saying things like: “I’m an uncrowned king – I don’t have to win any polls to know that – I’m cool, I know – I’ve been to the mountaintop – I played with Bird, with Trane, with all of ‘em – I call my own shots – I only play on ROY HAYNES dates – I do what I want to when I want to do it”. In this instance, the man’s self-perception is entirely and unquestionably correct. He should properly be squarely in the pantheon of the three best drummers of all time. Based on his hundreds of sessions and historical footprint, he fully deserves to be placed alongside Max Roach and Art Blakey. Since for some reason he has never achieved their stature, I’m not one to argue with his stance on this. Particularly after digesting this disc along with the enthusiastic audience.
When recorded in 2006, Mr. Haynes was 80 years old. I suspect he calls his band The Fountain of Youth for two reasons. Firstly, one has to marvel at his ability to display the vigor, energy and stamina required by his form of drumming at such an advanced age. Secondly, he seems to be somewhat Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers-ish in identifying and hiring newer cats and propelling them into the spotlight. In this case, it’s new band members Jaleel Shaw on saxophones and Robert Rodriguez on piano. Shaw reveals an awesome control and command of (largely) the alto saxophone. He’s already mastered many styles, but strikes me most when he blows “tight-free” in the manner of Jackie McLean. Haynes allows him substantial solo space and he aces every test. The dude really has incredible chops. And this program requires it – right from the opening “Mr P.C.” through “Bemsha Swing”, “Inner Urge” and the gig-closing “Segment” (composed by Coltrane, Best/Monk, Joe Henderson and Parker, respectively).
Pianist Rodriguez is similarly startling. He’s also given the opportunity for numerous lengthy solos and nails them all as well. I had never heard of him and this was his first ever appearance with the group. But he’s truly magnificent whether comping or making his very singular statements. He is a tremendous find with a fantastic future ahead of him. Mark his name well, since you might be able to catch him in smaller (cheaper) venues periodically with pick up bands before he hits the big time. John Sullivan on bass is also outstanding – whether pushing, walking or soloing.
The last paragraph goes to his majesty King Roy Haynes. He is, in fact, the remaining titan of the drums from the old days. I don’t know if it is representative of modern day miking techniques with their higher resolution of detail, but it seems the drum sounds now are more up-front and easier to follow. Or maybe on this disc it was just decided to place the master more forward in the mix. At any rate, it is absolutely the correct thing on this one. From beginning to end, the listener can fully appreciate all the contributions Haynes makes to the songs. I’m sure he’s forgotten more tricks than most drummers will ever learn, but he’s still got about ten “world’s biggest bags full”. His drive, accents and rim shots are simply majestic and oh-so appropriate. He never has been one to bring all that much attention to himself, but does so on a few occasions here, in addition to a six minute drum solo where he shows a complete conceptualization and utilization of the cymbals before adding the rims and finally breaking out to the full drum kit. I tried to concentrate solely on Haynes, but found it impossible to quite be able to do so, due to the talent of the group members. Now this says a lot about the release. The incomparable playing of Mr. Haynes is such that trying to “tune out” the sax, piano and bass could be a fully realized listening experience in itself. The fact that the accompanying playing is at too high a level to be able to do so speaks volumes about the overall band performance. It also means that The Fountain of Youth Band is also just as good as any carnation of the Jazz Messengers. Which in turn supports Mr. Haynes’ contention (and my own), that he has earned a position right beside Art Blakey and Max Roach in the hierarchy of truly great drummers in the history of jazz.
Tracks: Mr. P.C., My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Like This, Hippidy Hop, James, Bemshaw Swing, Inner Urge, Segment
- Birney K. Brown