Roy Haynes & Fountain of Youth, Sheila Jordan & Cameron Brown, Vijay Iyer Trio
Roy Haynes, at 87, is jazz Roy-alty. He's one of the greatest drummers of all time, he's an NEA Jazz Master with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, he's played with practically every significant jazz artist of note going back to Louis Armstrong, he's produced two sons and a grandson who each are great musicians, and his name even means "king." But if you asked Roy what he's most proud of, he'd probably say being picked by Esquire magazine in 1960 as one of the best dressed men in America. Because, you know, all these accolades and honors what are they to a guy who just wants to bring it? Get him behind the drums so he can shake up the world, as he's been doing for 70 years.
That's one thing the Healdsburg audience can count on to happen when Roy takes the stage for the final festival blowout, backed by his Fountain of Youth band of youngsters, plus an offspring or two and special guests. Fellow Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, who's sharing the bill Sunday, is certainly royal in her own right, but she's also close to being Roy-alty, as she's known Roy since they were getting started in the business and was tight with Roy's late wife Lee, mother of Craig and Graham Haynes. Vijay Iyer, the sizzling pianist who's starting off the proceedings Sunday, also must be counted among the Roy-al clan by dint of his years playing with drummer Marcus Gilmore, who happens to be Roy's grandson.
In recent years Roy has been leading his own band of young post-bop warriors: Martin Bejerano on piano, David Wong on bass and Jaleel Shaw on alto sax. On Roy's latest album, Royalty, they were augmented by Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove and son Roy's son Craig Haynes, who will be sitting in with Dad at Healdsburg. Craig has lent his skills to Sun Ra, George Benson, Geri Allen, Marcus Miller and others.
Something that can't be said about many singers is true of Sheila Jordan. She doesn't sound like anybody else. Emerging in Detroit in the late 1940s, Jordan fell under the sway of Charlie Parker. That wasn't unusual for singers. But Sheila found a way into bebop that was unique. Instead of merely singing the horn solos or the melody, she treated the tunes much as a great visual artist uses a block of clay, cutting tantalizing aural sculptures with precision vocal strikes that swoop, shock and delight. The result? Joy.
At Sunday's concert, Sheila will perform in duet with the towering bassist Cameron Brown. Singing with bass is her preferred mode of performing, and she's been doing it since the '50s. "I started the bass and voice," she says. "I feel very free with bass. It's open the silence, the space. I work off that." Her first bass partner was Steve Swallow, who played on Portrait of Sheila. Next came Harvie Swartz, with whom she duetted for 20 years, traveling the world and recording several albums (the most recent, Yesterdays, is a stunning 1990 date just released on High Tone). When Swartz left to pursue a separate career, Sheila contacted Cameron, and now the two have been performing for about as long.
It's always nice to welcome back Bay Area artists who took off for New York and actually made it there. Vijay Iyer, who juggled academia and performance in the East Bay he earned a PhD from U.C. Berkeley with a dissertation titled Macrostructures of Sound: Embodied Cognition in West African and African-American Musics while playing jazz piano in dives around town moved to New York in 1998 and gradually established himself as one of the leading lights of creative improvised music. He's a prolific recording artist whose every release has garnered more praise than the previous, culminating with a Grammy nomination for his last album Historicity. Now, Vijay's just-released Accelerando is already attracting raves for his radical yet sensual trio interpretations of tunes like Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and Herbie Nichols' "Wildflower."
Vijay's trio is an intriguing choice to start off the final Roy-alty day at the festival. Though his usual drummer, Marcus Gilmore Roy Haynes' grandson couldn't make the gig, another Haynes, son Graham Haynes, will be sitting in. Graham is a virtuoso cornetist and electronic music maven who's been part of the New York experimental scene since the 1980s. The drummer for the gig, Tyshawn Sorey, has a symphonic sweep to his playing that will undoubtedly mesh perfectly with Vijay's ideas. Bassist Stephan Crump has been supplying the intuitive pulse Vijay needs for years.
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