Haynes, Marie Headline Charlie Parker Jazz Fest
Drummer Roy Haynes walked to the front of the stage in New York’s Marcus Garvey Park on the evening of Aug. 25. He was performing in Harlem for the second day of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The 87-year-old drummer danced about in a futuristic gold-tinted suit and beige wingtip shoes, confidently tapping his feet and spinning in circles before sitting down at the drums.
It wasn't clear whether the audience would be more entertained by his moves or his music. But after three hours of music and three bands—including ERIMAJ, led by drummer Jamire Williams, a group led by bassist Derrick Hodge, and singer René Marie’s band—it remained a packed event.
Playing with his Fountain of Youth Band—Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Martin Bejerano on piano and David Wong on bass—Haynes opened the set with “Trinkle Tinkle,” a jumpy, stuttering tune composed by Thelonious Monk. Painting big, broad strokes on the ride, Haynes’ cymbal work stretched out, contracted and pushed against Wong’s steady, walking bass line. The tension that rose from this friction, at times, became the forward momentum of the song itself.
This technique is one of the things Haynes does best, and it is remarkable. The band played “Autumn In New York” in honor of Parker, who recorded the ballad with strings. Haynes waited to enter, letting his
bandmates play unaccompanied for the beginning stretch of the chorus, which Shaw interpreted beautifully. When Haynes began drumming, he did so in a loose, double-time way that shook up the ballad tempo, powerfully asserting his drums as a front-line instrument in the group.
Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts sat watching on the side of the stage along with a coterie of other jazz musicians, including bassist Ben Williams and pianist Jason Moran.
Although Moran was not scheduled to perform that day, he sat in on Rhodes piano with ERIMAJ, running excitedly to the front of the stage when Williams called him up. Moran played a nimble solo on “For You (For Who?),” a hip-hop-inflected tune that riffs on Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was the liveliest tune in a restrained set that drew a lot from rock and fusion.
The show really started to gain momentum towards the second half when, in between Hodge’s and Haynes’ sets, Marie moved gracefully about the stage, ably accompanied by her trio—Kevin Bales on piano, Elias Bailey on bass and Quentin Baxter on drums. She sang with a sly, silky voice that owed something to Annie Ross and Blossom Dearie. Marie’s own songs—such as “Black Lace Freudian Slip”—might have been cloying, if she weren’t so charmingly feisty. She really settled into her performance with moving renditions of “Imagination” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” sung in a medley. With exquisite body language, Marie acted out the words she sang—hugging herself at “hold me.”
During her speedy rendition of “Them There Eyes,” an elderly couple got up to dance, causing a flurry of excitement in the crowd right as the bassist was being featured. It was an afternoon full of lovely
moments—moments that are good for jazz and good for the city in which the music still thrives.