Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first: Drummer Roy Haynes was 80 years old at the time of the live performances captured on Whereas. Well, perhaps 80 is the new 60, for Haynes demonstrates the vitality and resourcefulness of a man who has actually found what Ponce de Leon searched for in vain.
Delving into the songbooks of jazz luminaries spanning from Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane to Joe Henderson, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, along with a spin on reworked Cole Porter—repertoire that reflects the drummer’s own six-plus decade career—Haynes drives his youthful quartet with supreme agility. The Fountain of Youth band, with saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist John Sullivan and pianist Robert Rodriguez (caught here making his ensemble debut) are each skillful, still-evolving players who seem to thrive on their leader’s boundless enthusiasm.
Haynes also contributes the set’s most compelling arrangement, a dark essay on Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” that morphs from ominous theme introduction to out-and-out Coltrane-like effusions and back during 11 impassioned minutes. Generous as he is with his band members, Haynes also finds space to strut his own stuff: The unaccompanied drum feature “Hippidy Hop” has nothing, thankfully, to do with hip-hop and everything to do with Haynes’s delicious way with coaxing elegant magic from a hi-hat and drums. Deep into an illustrious musical life, the man stands as a beacon of inspiration to all jazz instrumentalists. Long may he drum.