Saturday, April 27, 2013


Drummer Roy Haynes

The jazz drummer Roy Haynes résumé’ is thicker than a collegiate dictionary. Haynes has been involved in every development in jazz which includes swing, bebop, hard bop, free jazz, and jazz fusion. Haynes officially stepped into the limelight in 1947 when he joined the swing era tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Haynes has been in the limelight since. 

As a sideman, Haynes has played with many greats Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughn, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and Chick Corea. The bandleader section of his résumé’ is also astonishing. To date, Haynes has released roughly three dozen albums.  "We Three," "Cracklin'," "Out of the Afternoon," and "Cymbalism" are jazz masterpieces. As far back as memory serves, Haynes has always been a flashy drummer, and a noted fashionista. 

At 88, the same holds true. Haynes is jazz’s oldest living ham. That was on full display Friday evening at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Michigan. Haynes’ current band the Fountain of Youth played the second to last concert of the 2013 Paradise Jazz Series. 

At times, the hour plus concert was messy. But the jazz series audience overlooked that. Haynes is the consummate showman, big on audience participation. Besides, Haynes knows how to win over an audience. The young musicians Haynes currently run the streets with saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, pianist Martin Bejerano, and bassist John Sullivan who subbed for David Wong were competent. 

Haynes began the set with Thelonious Monk’s gem “Trinkle Tinkle”. Then before Haynes called the next number, he broke into a tap-dance routine. Surprisingly, Haynes was good at it. 

Normally, Haynes waits until the end of a concert to put on a drum exhibition. Last night, Haynes did so for the third number. It was lengthy, flashy, and Haynes displayed the energy and anticipation of a horny teenager on prom night. 

The evening belonged to Jaleel Shaw as much as it did to Haynes. Shaw is indebted to the great alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Shaw’s Parker-like manner may explain Haynes attraction to Shaw. On  Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," Shaw roared like a blood thirsty lion. On the ballads “Star Eyes” and “My Romance,” Shaw played softly as snow landing on cotton. 

Martin Bejerano was off. His solos were a bore. Somehow, he managed to suck the life out the piano. Although the concert was messy in spots, the audience was pleased. They lavished Haynes with a long ovation. They didn’t calm down until Haynes obliged them with an encore. 

At the end of the encore, Haynes did another tap-dance routine. Even though Haynes is nearly 90, he’s still spunky and still able to captivate an audience. Few jazz fans will disagree Haynes remains one of the flashiest jazz drummer out there, and is jazz’s oldest living ham.   

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Macy Gray and David Murray

 At the Detroit Athletic Club Tuesday afternoon, organizers of the Detroit Jazz Festival announced the 2013 lineup. It was an important conference more so than previous years. It’s Chris Collins’ second year as the festival’s artistic director. Many in attendance were anxious to see if Collins had top the lineup he put together in 2012. Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, and Kenny Garrett were some of the national headliners Collins booked last year.

The 2012 festival was a test for Collins, marking his debut at the helm of an internationally recognized music festival. Collins surpassed expectations, serving up a pure downhome jazz festival many longtime DJF supporters felt was the best in its history. 

According to many DJF goers, Collins returned the festival to its pure jazz roots, and included more Detroit jazz musicians. For many years, a contingent of Detroit jazz musicians felt they had been unfairly excluded from the festival. The criticism was how can you have a festival based in Detroit and have an inadequate representation of hometown musicians.

Judging from the mix of legends and young lions and the various jazz genres in this year’s lineup, Collins’ goal was for 2013 to be more inclusive. Grammy winner and Mack Avenue recording star pianist Danilo Perez is the 2013 DFJ artist-in-residence.

Perez is  a graduate of Berklee College of Music. As a bandleader, he's released some prime cut jazz albums dating back to his debut “Panama Monk,” As a sideman, he's held the piano chair in bands led by Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter. Perez spoke passionately at the press conference about how jazz could bridge social and political gaps while being a boon for public school education. 

Detroit’s mayor Dave Bing was on hand, and Perez put him on the spot, asking the mayor to consider making jazz a part of the public schools. Then Perez pledged to support the DJF in any capacity asked of him. 

The Opening night of the festival, Perez premieres his new work for Mack Avenue Records “Panama 500”. Saxophonist David Murray follows with special guest vocalist Macy Gray. Other national headliners performing are Charles Lloyd, Joshua Redmond, Ahmad Jamal, John Scofield, Shelia Jordan, McCoy Tyner, Ravi Coltrane, and Freddie Cole. 

There’re also sets by top young lions Cecile McLorin Salvant, Aaron Diehl, Gregory Porter, JD Allen, and Robert Glasper. The weekend would be incomplete without a handful of tribute acts. There're salutes to Pepper Adams, Miles Davis Dave Brubeck, Detroit Teddy Harris, and Don Byas.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Charles McPherson (Photo by Dr. Jazz)

The alto saxophonist Charles McPherson is one of the remaining authentic beboppers. Saturday evening he was in his hometown, Detroit participating in the bi-annual Art X Detroit festival sponsored by the Kresge Foundation. McPherson’s participation was billed as a "Evening with Charles McPherson," and it was held at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. 

Detroit Free Press jazz critic Mark Stryker organized it. There's a 45 minute one on one interview with McPherson conducted by Stryker, then a live set. McPherson was backed by bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Sean Dobbins and pianist Michael Weiss all Detroiters save for Weiss. 

(Weiss has performed enough in Detroit throughout his career and he knows enough about Detroit’s vast jazz history to be considered an honorary Detroiter. )

During the interview, McPherson talked mostly about how vibrant Detroit's jazz scene was during his youth, his hanging out at the storied Blue Bird Inn, studying with pianist Barry Harris, and how bebop pioneer Charlie Parker changed McPherson's outlook on music. 

Stryker kept the conversation about McPherson's memories of Detroit, which was fine, but surely some  attendees were curious about some of his other exploits and memories, for example, his stint with the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop. 

After a 20 minute break, the band opened with McPherson’s “Marionette,” and “Lonely Little Child”. McPherson was a teen when initially exposed to Charlie Parker's music. That was 50 plus years ago. He still hasn’t broken the spell Parker cast. That’s not a terrible thing. McPherson has had an illustrious career, and he’s one of the best interpreters of Parker’s style. 

That was clear as reading glasses when McPherson soloed on “Lover,” on “But Beautiful” and on “Anthropology”. There was a  suppleness to his blowing. On “Spring is Here,” he ground each note to a fine powder. It was McPherson’s evening, but drummer Sean Dobbins stood out. 

During one of Dobbins' solos, he wailed away so his drum kit nearly exploded. Dobbins is a serious and a respected jazz drummer, but he can be a ham at times. That was obvious last evening, but the audience enjoyed every bit of it. 

The showstopper came toward the end when McPherson called a blues. It got the audience worked up.  He blew as if Parker was on the stage whispering into his ear which notes to play.