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Roy Haynes: Love Letters

Some leaders have the magnetism to attract the cream of the crop when it comes to sidemen. Roy Haynes boasts that kind of drawing power, as veteran producer Yasohachi “88” Itoh discovered when he asked Haynes to record a trio session for his Eighty-Eight’s label in May 2002. (The name Yasohachi is the Japanese character for 88.) Various trio and quartet combinations of high-profile musicians laid down these nine beautifully conceived tracks: Joshua Redman, tenor; John Scofield, guitar; Kenny Barron, David Kikoski, piano; Christian McBride, Dave Holland, bass; and the only constant, the dynamic drummer Roy Haynes.

The language and style of each combo track (the final cut, “Shades of Senegal 2,” is a solo tour de force for Haynes) is remarkably similar. Like Haynes, each revels in a harmonically rich, postbop state of mind. With two exceptions, there are no arrangements: drum or piano intros are followed by high-intensity solo statements. On “Que Pasa?” Redman and Barron harmonize on the head (sounds like a flatted fifth apart); a humorous collaboration of melody (Redman) and obbligato (McBride, arco) provides a dirgelike intro to an uptempo “My Shining Hour.” McBride’s solo later in the track is one of the album’s highlights. Holland has his own shining hour on “Afro Blue,” as does the nimble Scofield.

Haynes, who turned 77 in March, shows no inclination of slowing down. His supportive brushwork and energetic solos electrify each track.

Originally Published