Jeff Tamarkin reviews the latest from the iconic 86-year-old drummer
You could spend the rest of your days trying to come up with superlatives to describe 86-year-old Roy Haynes, whose résumé virtually doubles as a potted guide to post-war jazz. But while you’d be looking back at all he’s done, Haynes is still firmly planted in the present, a point brought home by the fact that he calls his group the Fountain of Youth Band.
That’s not to imply that the cleverly titled ROY-alty (did it really take this long for him to use that one?) is some kind of hip-hop/jazz hybrid bursting with electronics or any other deliberate attempt to be über-contempo. Haynes doesn’t need that. Instead, the album falls squarely into a well-defined postbop box, and therein Haynes is sharp enough to allow his much younger crew—bassist David Wong, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and pianist Martin Bejerano—to direct the proceedings as often as he calls the shots himself. ROY-alty isn’t so much a showcase for the drummer as the new recording by an exceptional band that just happens to have one of the all-time sticksmen keeping time.
On two tracks, the ballad “Pinky” and an uptempo take on the folk standard “They Call the Wind Mariah” that disguises the main theme convincingly, it’s just that basic quartet at work, and they’re an imposing bunch. But ROY-alty packs added star power in the form of Chick Corea and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, the latter on six of the album’s 10 tracks, the former on two. One of the Corea tracks, Monk’s “Off Minor,” gives Haynes a time-shifting workout, but he’s just as striking on more conventionally swinging numbers that pair the band with Hargrove, from the opening Sonny Rollins number “Grand Street” through the McCoy Tyner-penned closer, “Passion Dance,” which adds saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Robert Rodriguez and Haynes’ son Craig on congas.