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
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.