Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb

Bassist Steve Haines Quintet ‘s latest impressive recording, “Stickadiboom,” is a perfect prescription for those who enjoy thought-provoking, energetic , excellently composed and arranged, modern jazz music. Haines, a Canadian transplant , who directs the Miles Davis Program in Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, lived in New York City, during a research assignment, played , hung out and immersed himself in the jazz scene, where he met the legendary drummer, Jimmy Cobb, who is featured on six of the eight selections. Cobb’s steady, sturdy, exceptional drum work keeps the outing fresh and polished. The drummer also contributed one of his snappy, swinging songs called “Composition 101.” The rest, all written by Haines and all with his classy, prominent bass line, is a colorful mix of slow, waltzy, mid-tempo, bossa-nova, and upbeat thumping tunes.

The album is also positive proof that the Carolina Jazz Connection is alive and well. There is something about North Carolina that brings out the best in a jazz musician, i.e., John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Nina Simone and numerous other outstanding natives. The great reedman Philadelphia native Jimmy Heath, who lived in the state and graduated from high school there, joked once that the reason so many jazz all-stars came from the area was because of the water. “Stickadiboom “ shows clearly that it may be a little more than that and that maybe the Blues and the soulful, churchy feeling also have something to do with it, too. Three of the musicians on this New York City recording date are North Carolinians. Haines lives in Greensboro; while pianist Chip Crawford is a Raleigh native, and drummer Thomas Taylor, who performed nicely on two tunes, the straight-ahead, “The Freightrain,” and “Re-Frayne,” Haines’s solo effort, was born in Elizabeth City, near Max Roach’s birthplace of New Land. All three are dedicated serious educators who work full-time at their crafts and have been active participants in the fertile North Carolina jazz scene for years.

New York City-based veteran Chip Crawford, is awesome, as usual, soloing and comping, on the playful, bouncy “Prospect Park,” which allows Chip to showcase his sophisticated, gospel-like touch. Chip also shines on the bossa nova, “Rendezvous,” which is the strongest and most lingering piece on the album partly because of the first-class sparkling work of trumpeter/soprano saxophonist Rob Smith and tenor saxophonist David Lown. The pretty ballad, “Patience,” named after a friend of Haines’ daughter, features Smith and Lown in quite a melancholy and contemplative mood. It is a lush simple arrangement and melodic statement that highlights the masterful brush work of the elder Jimmy Cobb. Haines is right there, too, supplying the bottom at just the right time. He provides a wonderful, non-obtrusive foundation on all of the compositions, but it is his work on “Patience,” that stands out. Unfortunately, the title cut, “Stickadiboom,” a “boogaloo” reminiscent of Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” is not as good as the others, and comes off as a second-rate Morgan imitation.

Over all, however, the album, his second as a leader, is a lively, pleasurable session that should brightened up any sad day. This is not surprising because when Haines performs live he is all smiles and projects a picture of a cat in pure ecstasy. He seems to love every minute of it and treats the bass like a delicate pearl. He seems to be in a trance while he digs in and keeps the music going in a blissful direction. “Stickadiboom” is Steve Haines’s wonderful way of documenting that delightful feeling , and his passion and obvious respect for jazz music. Aren’t we so fortunate to be able to hear it and most of all, to experience it with all the variety and vitalty that makes jazz and the Carolina jazz connection so great?

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Larry Reni Thomas