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Graham Haynes: Tones For the 21st Century

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Cornetist/composer Graham Haynes is discreetly becoming one of the most original voices in the last decade of jazz’s first century.

Forging energetic, musically challenging, emphatically involving, genre-bashing recordings that seem to ellipse far above the heap of corporate-driven placebos, Haynes’ distinctive flair for tuneful melodies, infectious rhythms, and sharply inventive musical concepts has afforded him a handful of stirringly original recordings that will undoubtedly be revealed as some of the best jazz discs of the ’90s. Tones For The 21st Century issues Haynes’ most personal, florid, and abstract statement. Both ambitious and alarmingly quiet, Tones For The 21st Century is the B-side to his 1996 sonically devastating Transition. Oblique, hallucinogenic, murky, yet surprisingly peaceful and at times utterly beautiful, this latest venture finds Haynes floating through the anti-gravity soundscapes of ambient music. Sparsely complemented by wordists Tracie Morris and DJ Spacecraft, African harpist Steve Neil and techno programmer Joseph Briggs, Haynes has masterfully crafted six compelling sketches that seduce the listener not with funky basslines, thrustful rhythm, or knotty solos but through the mystical powers of simple legato melodies.

From a cursory listen, there seems to be an over-abundance of mindless keyboard samples and loops and not enough jazz lingo. But the hauntingly beautiful melodies Haynes whispers through the swirling kaleidoscope of soft keyboard washes and lurking chords on “Millennia” are some of his most gorgeous playing on record.

The transportive “Nameless River” also illuminates Haynes’ gentler side as his drifts blissfully across the soothing rhythms of African harp and the hypnotic droning of a didgeridu. The spoken words of Tracie Morris on “Out of Phaze/Spirit World” and DJ Spacecraft on “Millennia” may prove to be self-indulgent and distracting to jazz snobs and cynics. But simply stated, Haynes’ offering of Tones For The 21st Century has provided the ambient music’s In A Silent Way in the most carefree way.