The President of Milwaukee’s Common Council, Marvin Pratt and a jazz drummer from Milwaukee, Victor Campbell presented legendary bebop artist Roy Haynes with a Proclamation, making May 31 Roy Haynes Day. Graciously accepting the award, Roy seemed a bit surprised to receive a Proclamation from the city of Milwaukee. When he recently told a friend he had a gig in Wisconsin they asked "Do people like jazz in Wisconsin?" Nonetheless, Roy seemed impressed with the Proclamation and with the enthusiasm of crowd, which fed off the vibrancy of his playing. Displaying why he is often referred to as a national treasure, Roy put on a rhythm clinic.
His playing reminded me of a quote from Chico Hamilton, "Imagine the world without music". Music provides cultural and spiritual sustenance whose absence is all but incomprehensible. Roy’s life-affirming performance reminded how vital a force music can be. Having seen Roy over half a dozen times, this was some of the most amazing, remarkable work I’ve witnessed, particularly in the spiritual sense. The blues element in jazz comes into play here and at its deepest level the performance reminded me of a John Lee Hooker show. Although the sounds were different, it had the same transformative, spiritual effect.
Certainly, the blues is no stranger to the music of Charlie Parker, the revolutionary alto player to whom this All-Star quintet was paying tribute. All-Star groups are interesting. How is all that talent going to fit together? I had seen Roy Haynes in two other All-Star groups and although they were good, this group was incomparable. In fact, this performance would have made for a great live recording. Everyone was in a zone, individually impressive, collectively fantastic. Birds of a Feather is made up of Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, Dave Kikoski on piano, and led by master percussionist Roy Haynes. They came out guns a blazin’ with an unbelievable tempo on the Parker classic, Donna Lee. Because they played only six tunes over a span of roughly 100 minutes there was plenty of room to stretch out. Having never heard Kenny Garret live before, I was impressed. He did things I’ve never heard anyone pull off, i.e., aggressive solos interwoven with the sounds of bebop, blues and beyond, digging deeper into the groove as he and Roy spurred each other on.
Dave Kikoski may not be as well known as the other musicians in the quintet but he certainly belongs. He provided a series of highlights, which culminated in Sippin’ at Bell’s, a fabulous Parker composition that found him pounding out the catchy rhythm and exploring the changes. Another Parker classic, Now’s The Time, featured the horn players, in what was the closest thing I ever heard live to the reminiscent interchange of the classic Bird/Miles recordings. Nicholas Payton was downright funky and his exchanges with Kenny Garrett brilliant. This number found Roy in his element.
A trio format was utilized to deliver two consecutive ballads. The horn players took turns catching a breather with Roy while the other one was showcasing his talents with the support of Holland and Kikoski, who also had some nice solos on these numbers. Nicholas Payton was masterful as he breezed through Embraceable You. The ballad is a great opportunity for a soloist to show their wares and both Payton and Garrett were eloquent.
Dave Holland is one of the greatest bass players on the planet. He was jamming on the uptempo numbers, soulful on the ballads and throughout the evening made some of the greatest facial expressions to go with his heavy bass lines. Like the rest of the group, he looked like he was having a great time.
However, the evening belonged to Roy Haynes. His flashy wardrobe was trumped only by the substance of his playing. His solos had the crowd on their feet and power of his rhythm had them screaming for more.
Jackie Allen opened the show with an eclectic mix of jazz and pop tunes penned by Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sting. Backing her persuasive voice was Dane Richardson on drums, Hans Sturm on bass and Ben Lewis on piano.