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Anytime Roy Haynes performs, the venue becomes a sold-out happening, but his recent two-day engagement at the Blue Note became even more significant with the appearance of bassist Ron Carter, who performed with Haynes’ Fountain of Youth Band (featuring alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and pianist Martin Bejerano). Ironically, the great bassist was sitting in for David Wong, one of his former students.
Between Haynes and Carter, it would be extremely difficult to find one major jazz musician that they did not perform or record with. Both are the most recorded musicians on their instruments, with Carter appearing on over 2,500 recordings. They are both NEA Jazz Masters and received the prestigious medallion and title of “Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters” from the French Minister of Culture. Carter first played with Haynes in the 1980s in a trio with pianist Tommy Flanagan.
“I’m happy to play with Roy at any given moment,” said Carter.
Given the stature of the two musicians, there wasn’t a lot of rehearsal for the two-day gig. “I met the saxophonist and pianist at sound check, and I was sent some lead sheets,” stated Carter. “We had a half hour of rehearsal time, but we played strictly on instinct.”
Carter will return to the Blue Note on March 4-9 with drummer Billy Cobham and saxophonist Donald Harrison.
Carter with the Fountain of Youth and Haynes were intuitive. At 88 years old, Haynes continues to play like a 19-year-old, and his 10-minute solo on the high hat was amazing. The band’s interpretation of “Green Chimneys” moved from straight-ahead to an improvisational melodic swing tune with wild riffs by Shaw on alto and Carter’s strong bottom strokes infused with Bejerano’s cascading harmonic notes.
“It’s a blessing when we get together with people like Ron,” said Haynes. “It becomes one moment of this great music that we are still creating.” When Haynes did a few bars of “Thanks for the Memories,” he noted when he was playing with Sarah Vaughan that she said he was a frustrated singer. “I knew I was frustrated but not a singer,” he said, laughing.
Haynes joked with the audience and gave background on some of his many years as a drummer of the music. Following a tune by Bud Powell, he noted he missed many of the musicians who have passed on, but he is still here trying to play the drums.
The last night brought out such musicians as pianist Chick Corea, trumpeter Wallace Roney and tap dancer Savion Glover, all to the happiness of the sold-out crowd. Other musicians in the audience included Russell Malone, Cecil Taylor, Patience Higgins, Chris Dave, Bill Saxton and Steve Jordan. Many seats were also filled by young aspiring drummers and bass players, all in awe of the masters at work.
Haynes, who turns 89 on March 13, later noted, “Man, that night seemed like a dream, truly a night to be cherished.”
Vocalist, composer and cultural worker Imani Uzuri recently curated a four-day festival titled “Sinner and Saints” celebrating Black American vernacular culture (e.g., ring shouts, spirituals, blues, early gospel, line singing, praise houses, jazz) and their contemporary counterparts.