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JAZZ REVIEW

Time is no problem for ageless Haynes

The 81-year-old drummer brings a vibrant young quartet to Catalina Bar & Grill.

April 08, 2006|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Listening to the Roy Haynes quartet at Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night brought to mind a poignant moment in the film "Sideways." It's where the character Maya (played by Virginia Madsen) talks about a wine's "life," saying, "I think about all those people who tended and picked the grapes, and if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now."

What's the connection? Simply that Haynes, who turned 81 last month, is a vintage player, still very much at his peak. And experiencing the quality of his drumming called up memories of the long-gone icons with whom he played over the years: Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie. Yet here was Haynes, leading a group of talented young players, not only playing with vigor and imagination, but with a style that combined rich, traditional fluency with vigorous contemporary energies.

The absence of music stands and written arrangements made it instantly apparent that the quartet -- Haynes, and the fine young trio of alto saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Martin Bejarano and bassist John Sullivan -- was a stable organization. The subtle interplay in each piece affirmed the symbiosis that can take place when talented jazz artists work together on a continuing basis.

At one point, Strickland and Bejarano exchanged solo passages while Haynes backed them with a propulsive flow that was simultaneously supportive and rhythmically contrapuntal. The Vernon Duke-Ira Gershwin ballad "I Can't Get Started" began with a tender a cappella opening from Strickland, expanded into a richly layered solo with full quartet. And when Haynes took a solo using mallets -- a formula for superficial exoticism with most drummers -- he instead created a gripping soundscape, texturally building to a crisp, rhythmically driven take on one of the most unlikely of jazz subjects, "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."

Bands led by drummers often suffer from balance problems, with snare, cymbals and tom-toms dominating the proceedings. Not so with Haynes, who led by urging, stimulating and supporting, soloing with a gripping combination of inventiveness and swing, bringing maturity and musicality to everything he touched.

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