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Roy Haynes: Fountain of Youth

Roy Haynes

Now that he is 78, it’s clear that Roy Haynes must have dove headlong into the Fountain of Youth (Dreyfus) somewhere along the way in his fabulous career, which spans 60 years and includes time spent working with all the greats, from Charlie Parker to Pat Metheny. Haynes’ rhythmic choices are so unorthodox yet so organic that they can scarcely be imitated, and he cuts up the beat in oh-so-many ways-all of them hip. I once asked Haynes about the secret to his signature snare-bass drum-hi-hat combinations and he replied, “Watch Sugar Ray Robinson-you dig?”

Perhaps the best example of his singular sensibility on Fountain of Youth can be heard on his highly personalized interpretations of Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle” (erroneously titled “Twinkle Trinkle” here) and the traditional “Greensleeves” (done in a decidedly darker, reharmonized and ultimately more intriguing arrangement than Coltrane’s early ’60s rendition). Then there’s Haynes’ playing on “Summer Night,” which is a virtual clinic in the art of time displacement. Near the end of this brilliant showcase he lets loose with a dynamic solo that takes the proceedings up a notch further-a testament to his inexhaustible energy as well as his understanding of showmanship from behind the kit.

Recorded at Birdland before a hearty crowd of true jazz fans who had braved a fierce snowstorm in early December 2002 to get to the gig, Fountain of Youth highlights the eternal hipster doing his thing in the company of his talented young charges Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet, Martin Bejerano on piano and John Sullivan on bass. Rising star Strickland brings a remarkable poise and fluency to bear on Monk’s gorgeous ballad “Ask Me Now,” which is underscored by Haynes’ gracefully swinging brushwork. Strickland also erupts with bracing intensity on “Trinkle Tinkle” and displays more passionate abandon on the boppish “Butch and Butch,” which is fueled by the drummer’s inimitable ride cymbal pulse along with some well-placed accents on the snare.

During a heated rendition of Monk’s “Green Chimneys,” the band drops out at one passage as Strickland extrapolates on the theme, stretching out with some Michael Brecker-isms in the course of his daring, unaccompanied solo. Bejerano, who follows Haynes’ longtime associate David Kikoski in the piano chair, plays extraordinarily well throughout and is particularly noteworthy on Kikoski’s “Inner Trust” as well as on the band’s high-energy romp through “Green Chimneys.” Their take on Irving Berlin’s “Remember” is strictly old-school swinging at its finest. And they close on a more reflective note with Pat Metheny’s “Question & Answer,” which builds to a dramatic peak through Haynes’ dynamic solo before resolving to a hush.

Perhaps it is Haynes’ eagerness to constantly surround himself with energetic youngbloods and then rise to the challenge they present on the bandstand that has kept him so youthful and invigorated all these years. Whatever his secret, Haynes should bottle it.

Originally Published