London Jazz Festival: Roy Haynes, Peter King

Fred Grand reviews Roy Haynes's Fountain Of Youth Band and the Peter King Quartet at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 18 November 2011

Photography © John Watson/

Roy HaynesAfter septuagenerian Archie Shepp had held court at the QEH on Thursday, it was octogenarian Roy Haynes's turn to delight another packed house on Friday. Haynes (right) is better known for his illustrious associations than his not inestimable work as a bandleader - I could fill a page, but we'll settle for Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Andrew Hill, Sonny Rollins, Gary Burton, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny - and it was this "golden thread" of history that I think had drawn most people here. Anybody with more than a passing interest in jazz will know all about his crisp touch on the cymbals, busy polyrhythms and deep bass "bombs", but whenever he comes to town we all want to know just how well this impossibly evergreen and truly bona fide legend is holding up to the ravages of time.

Before getting our answer, there was the welcome sight and sound of Peter King's Quartet treading the big stage. I've seen the group countless times over the years in provincial pubs and clubs, but it's one of the great strengths of the London Jazz Festival that it offers an international platform to handpicked local talent. King made a logical pairing with Haynes, having drawn heavily on many of the same musical sources for much of his career and grown stealthily into an elder statesman role. In their short but lively set the group (below) opened with a searing version of Chick Corea's Inner Space before touching base with Strayhorn and Coltrane. Steve Melling was as redoubtable as ever in the Tyner seat, and King remains one of our best post-bop stylists.

Peter KingAfter a rapid turnaround Haynes's sparkling golden kit arrived front-centre stage, and the lights went down. Rather than making the conventional entry, Haynes couldn't resist some rhythmic tap-dancing on the way to his drum stool. Before he'd even sat down he'd passed his health check and we'd had our first solo of the night! Performing with his Grammy-nominated Fountain Of Youth Band his band mates are of course many years younger but this is no Blakey-style youth academy and each member of the group is there as a fully fledged voice which can serve Haynes's musical needs. Advertised pianist David Kikoski had been replaced by "one to watch" Martin Bejerano, whose two-handed prowess and penchant for clusters could have been excessive were it not for a fine sense of structure and impeccable taste. Alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw has a sweet, lyrical style shorn of all rough edges, and is perhaps the best known of Haynes's associates, whilst fleet-fingered bassist David Wong completed a quartet clearly chosen for its immense talents.

In a programme largely consisting of standards, a radically re-envisioned My Heart Belongs To Daddy (played as a modal pedal-drone) drew the most locked-in and intense soloing. A skittish walk through Monk's Trinkle Tinkle loosened up the band, and Haynes soon began to engage in some genial and light-hearted banter with the audience that went down famously. Looking scarcely any older than his young bandmates, Haynes strolled around the stage between numbers exchanging quips like an impish teenager. There was no encore, but the drummer had given his all for a good 80 minutes, embellishing every accent without ever sounding over-embellished.

MC Kevin Le Gendre shared with the audience that just before the show a massive bouquet had arrived for Haynes from none other than Charlie Watts. It was a measure of how much Haynes's music is a soundtrack to so many lives. In our own way we were all there to give the drummer our own garlands of thanks. This set succeeded as a programme of beautifully executed modern jazz played by a fresh and well-balanced group, and I like to imagine that after the show Haynes downed a few beers, stepped into a golden Caddy, and went off in search of the next party...

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