Louis Hayes: Crisis

The 83-year-old drummer, veteran of bands led by Horace Silver, John Coltrane and Oscar Peterson, proves himself as sleek and swinging as ever


After starting out with his own Detroit-based band in the early 1950s, Louis Hayes played drums with many leading figures, fast becoming a mainstay of the hard-bop and post-bop scenes. Among those with whom he worked in the 1950s were Horace Silver, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

In the mid-1960s he joined the Oscar Peterson trio and towards the end of that decade returned to bandleading although he continued to play and often record with key figures including Kenny Barron, Junior Cook, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and McCoy Tyner.

In recent decades, Hayes has been a significant presence in the Cannonball Legacy Band and has continued to lead bands that have included musicians such as Joe Farrell, Peter Washington and David Hazeltine, the last named being heard on this new release. Hard to believe that at the time of this recording, Hayes was coming up to his 84th birthday, and his sleek and propulsive playing certainly show no hint of his years in the roles of driver and inspirer.

On this session, much of the repertoire is drawn from jazzmen old and new(er). The former supply Arab Arab, which is by Joe Farrell, Roses Poses by Bobby Hutcherson, Desert Moonlight by Lee Morgan, and the album’s title track by Freddie Hubbard. The new works are by band members Steve Nelson (Alien Visitation), Dezron Douglas (Oxygen) and the leader (Creeping Crud, a composition dedicated to Doug Watkins, an important figure in the drummer’s early career).

Throughout, the music is relaxed and lithely swinging, the drummer’s touch light and propulsive. Most of the many solos are taken by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and vibraphone player Steve Nelson. There are good moments, too, from pianist Hazeltine, while the leader and bassist Dezron Douglas have their brief but crisply effective moments.

Not well known internationally, singer Camille Thurman’s vocal sound is fluid, her diction is clear and she interprets the lyrics with understanding. The two songs she sings are a standard, Where Are You?, and I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over, which was recorded by Nancy Wilson with Cannonball Adderley, thus maintaining an underlying theme. A lively instrumental version of another standard brings this very good and warmly recommended album to a close.

Arab Arab; Roses Poses; I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over; Desert Moonlight; Where Are You?; Creeping Crud; Alien Visitation; Crisis; Oxygen; It’s Only A Paper Moon (55.59)
Hayes (d); Abraham Burton (ts); Steve Nelson (vib); David Hazeltine (p); Dezron Douglas (b); Camille Thurman (v, I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over, Where Are You?). 7 & 8 January 2021. Astoria, NY.
Savant SCD 2192