Rhythm Sticks 2005 – Roy Haynes


Roy Haynes (drums)
Martin Bejerano (piano)
Marcus Strickland (tenor & soprano saxophones)
John Sullivan (bass)

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: 23 July, 2005
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

You wouldn’t know it to hear him, but Roy Haynes turns 80 this year. His new quartet is called Fountain of Youth, which seems appropriate; Haynes has put together a group of bright young players to mould in his own ebullient image, and to keep playing the music he loves, the same as he has always done. It seems to be working; on this last date of their European tour he was more visibly energised than the band-mates young-enough to be his grandsons.

Getting old has its disadvantages, though. “These drums have been stored in Paris since I went to Yamaha, whenever that was … Long time ago. Drums say too long”. But while he’s on stage, Roy Haynes is rhythm, more a primal force of music than a flesh and blood player. Even testing the microphone turns into an excuse for improvisation. In his several extended solos, he still looks like the proverbial kid in a candy store, as animated by delight in his own prodigious powers of musical invention as ever.

However, the band sounds gratifyingly like a coherent unit, rather than a superstar showcase. True, Haynes takes the lead, and his shimmering beat is so insistent that it draws the ear like a moth to a flame. But it’s clear that he is simply primus inter pares, responding to his colleagues as much as they to him; when they get going, their brand of what Haynes calls “hard swing” is streamlined and punchy.

“Ask Me Now” shows saxophonist Marcus Strickland’s ability to shape a solo, long-limbed melodies exploding into lightning flurries of notes. Another Monk tune, “Trinkle Tinkle” is Martin Bejerano’s finest moment, with a solo that unlocks the song’s harmonic tricks to release a flurry of dazzling contrapuntal fireworks. John Sullivan’s solid bass pulse gives Haynes the freedom to enjoy himself; on Pat Metheney’s “Question and Answer”, the drummer rises to exuberant fantasias of rolling beats, before trimming the sails and coasting home in minimalist style. He takes a break for a mellow solo-spot by Bejerano and a duet between Strickland and Sullivan that is perhaps a little too long, the only point that the concert sags a little.

The band finish with “Butch and Butch” followed by “Summer Night”, with a noisy climactic build from the grinning Haynes. There follows a five-minute ovation before he reappears on stage, suddenly frail before our eyes. In lieu of an encore, he quotes from “Nature Boy”: “The greatest thing/You’ll ever learn/Is just to love…”. The sentiment is returned, with interest.

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