Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Following his highly successful, back-to-origins Sixties-framed album The Poet's Embrace, saxophonist Nathan Haines here not only continues in a similar vein but expands the parameters of his writing (the ballad Lady Lywa is instantly memorable and a real highpoint of economy and craftsmanship) and works with a large ensemble on a stately reworking and expansion of JJ Johnson's midnight ballad Lament, arranged and conducted by Wayne Senior.
Personally I've never been persuaded by some of Haines' vocal pieces (and the rather anemic First Light here doesn't do it for me) but the slinky Navarino Street finds him in excellent voice and the arrangement for horns is cleverly supportive of the lyrics which nod and wink at cool hipsters. The piano solo by Kevin Field confirms again that he can turn his hand to just about any idiom in jazz.
Good also to hear brother Joel's distinctive guitar in a few places here.
Some found The Poet's Embrace a little tame (I didn't, I thought it was exactly the album he should have made) and I've no doubt some of the same comments might be made about this because of the high ballad quotient (and those vocal tracks). But this is often swinging, sophisticated band music (check Five Dimensions which peels off from early classic Brubeck) where restraint and economy is part of the contract.
That said, we might also hope that he really pushes himself the next time out -- as he edges towards on Frontier West -- otherwise the momentum will feel like it is being lost.
Again this is short (two sides of vinyl again, perhaps?) and firmly within a tradition (in a cover which evokes the classic Blue Note period, sans cigarette). But Haines and his fellow players haven't fallen for the old neo-con trap and have delivered something that, while erring towards the pleasant in places, creates a contemporary niche for itself.
As with The Poets Embrace, these tunes will doubtless brush up much more vigorous and gutsy live.
And he's playing around the country in the next week or so. See here for dates.