Louis Hayes knows his stuff. The veteran drummer, who early on honed his chops with the likes of Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley, has put together a group of musicians and a selection of tunes that really work. While too many artists skim the wealth of available material, Hayes has dug down to resurrect and reinvent tunes like Joe Zawinul's "Mystified" and Sonny Rollins' "Decision."
The album kicks off with fervor with James Williams' "Progress Report," a burner that sets the temperature for much of the disc. Hayes' insistent drums announce and provoke the hard-hitting solos of saxophonist Abraham Burton, trumpeter Riley Mullins and pianist Dave Hazeltine. Hard bop lives in the souls of these guys, who nail Kenny Drew's "Lion Den." Santi Debriano's bass teams with Hayes' multi-dimensional traps providing a deep groove on which the hotshot soloists can rely. Hayes heads to Freddie Hubbard's "Clarence's Place" when it's time to swing and turns to the standard "Tenderly" for a quieter moment. This well-rounded program also includes a Latin tinge on James Williams' "Alter Ego." On J.J. Johnson's hard-bopping "Interlude," Hayes is not content to wait for a break to join the action. He jumps in during the other musicians' solos, driving them from the inside until it's finally time to take one on his own. Quintessential Lou is quintessential jazz.