Half Notes: Stephen Haynes – Parrhesia (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

After all the whack jazz winners I’ve heard from Engine Studios, I’ve come to expect nothing but excellence whenever I pop in a CD from that label for the first time, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Label head and producer Steven Walcott signs up creative, free thinking musicians new or old, overlooked or established, puts them in a studio and just lets them be themselves. Such is the case for Haynes and his Engine release Parrhesia; I haven’t previously heard of Haynes, but given the guys he brought in the studio with him: Warren Smith (drums, percussion, marimba, voice), Joe Morris (electric guitar) and Walcott behind the boards, just how bad can this be? And guess what, it isn’t. Haynes, who plays trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet, also plays a nasty, scowling, howling mute on “Reclamation,” and Smith is throwing down his usual odd assortment of unconventional rhythmic patterns and intonations, as Morris makes his guitar sound like a bowed bass. The three discreetly improvise together with Smith on marimba and seek out strange new timbres (for “Quietude,” and “St. Louis Sonority”) and Haynes’ horn gets fractured and fragile for “Flowers For Ida.” Morris, tapping on his detuned guitar, combines with Smith to devise an unmistakably African groove on “Invocation” that Haynes, exhibiting the maturity of a trumpet player by the name of Miles, simply rides on and carefully picks his spots where he places his menacing notes. It’s all eerily beautiful music. Parrhesia which means “to speak everything,” or put another way, “to speak freely,” perfectly describes what Haynes, Morris and Smith did here on this striking debut by Haynes. And they speak “Free” fluently.

Purchase: Stephen Haynes – Parrhesia

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