Roy Haynes Love Letters Review

BBC Review

Now in his seventies, master drummer Haynes assembles an allstar line-up for an...

Peter Marsh 2003

Roy Haynes is a master drummer, and probably one who deserves the oft used description 'legendary'. Though never associated with a particular band or musician (unlike say, Elvin Jones or Tony Williams), he's often been termed 'the father of modern jazz drumming'. Despite this undoubtedly deserved accolade (there's a lot of Haynes in Jack DeJohnette, for example) his work as a leader has been patchy, and there's not a lot of it either. It'sironic that it's takena Japanese label to issue what's probably his best work.

Love Letters teams the great man with a stellar cast that variously includes bassists Christian McBride and Dave Holland, guitarist John Scofield, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Kenny Barron distributed across several lineups. It's a set of standards; predictable enough, maybe, but the quality of the playing shows that, as he heads towards his mid seventies, Mr Haynes is still able to teach any young Turk a trick or two.

Throughout, the drummer's mastery of his craft ensures sympathetic, probing propulsion that ensures top performances from his accomplices. He gels particularly well with Holland (whose pairing provoked some of Pat Metheny's best work on the superb Question and Answer). Their drive and intelligence does similar wonders for Scofield, whose work here is amongst the best I've heard from the guitarist. Adopting a blurred, 'classic' jazz tone, Sco replaces his usual bluesy lickfests with intensely melodic ruminations that mix the edginess of Bill Frisell with the cool rhapsodies of Jim Hall.

The other lineup generates more heat (again, McBride locks beautifully with the drummer's every move) but is let down by Redman's tendency to overdo it a bit. Though a technically gifted player, he seems to have little sense of risk or discovery, and as a result his soloing seems curiously flat. At least his presence allows Haynes to let rip a little more.Which is fair enough; he's the star of the show, after all. Recommended.

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