(Ronnie Scott’s, Sun. 21st Oct. 2012. Review By Alison Bentley)
In Ronnie Scott’s foyer, a young crowd was queuing to buy New Zealand saxophonist Nathan Haines’ new vinyl album. A scene from the past- I almost expected Ronnie himself to appear, muttering, ‘There’s no accounting for taste!’ Reaching into the past, Haines had recorded the limited edition LP (The Poet’s Embrace) in a 60s Kind of Blue style: live over two days, using antique analogue equipment.
Back in the present, five tunes from the new album (out on CD next year) were played on the gig. Haines’ Realisation opened with burnished cymbals- young New Zealander Alain Koetsier recalling Elvin Jones on Coltrane’s Love Supreme. You could hear Coltrane’s motivic patterns in the tenor sax; Haines has imbibed Coltrane’s harmony, but his sound was calmer. There was a dash of George Coleman and Joe Lovano- Haines studied with them in New York. The tone felt like the most important thing: rich, lush and breathy, then, in a heartbeat, squally and stormy. The Poet’s Embrace could have been ‘the saxophone’s embrace’- we were cocooned in its warm sound. Dexter Gordon playing Body and Soul in Tavernier’s film Round Midnight came firmly to mind. Kevin Field is a very expressive pianist, and he helped create the atmosphere in his ethereal solo intro.
Other sides to Haines’ playing: in his Ancestral Dance, his fast swing was a little like Joe Henderson, while his Universal Man, with its 6/8 minor modal feel, invoked Coltrane’s Favourite Things. Haines’ speedy scalar phrases perhaps owed something to Eric Alexander whilst keeping Trane’s spirit. UK bassist Andy Hamill’s solo raised cheers from the crowd- although playing double bass, he sounded remarkably like Jaco Pastorius, with his high wavering pizzicato and bluesy double-stopping.
Other composers, other effects. In Roy Brooks’ Eboness (iconically recorded by Yusuf Lateef), Haines played with aching, carefully slurred, blurry notes, as if he had nothing left to prove. He took on Lateef’s unhurried, languid style. Koetsier’s drum solo was untethered from the groove, full of sparky paradiddles. Field’s composition Good Friday had more modern modal harmonies, and he won the audience over with his Herbie Hancockian virtuosic solo.
The theme from the film Get Carter (’60s London updated’) and a Scott Walker Kerouac-influenced ballad (It’s Raining Today sung moodily by Haines) kept true to the era. The first had a fine arch-top guitar intro and solo from ‘Aussie mate’ Leon Stenning (just a hint of sitar) and some lovely folk-tinged flute from Haines. Mike Patto’s keyboard sounded first uncannily like a Minimoog, then a groovy Fender Rhodes. Vanessa Freeman (UK soulful singer and force of nature) concluded each set. The contrast between her deep powerful tones and Haines’ high fluttering flute was very satisfying, especially when they improvised together on Little Sunflower. In Vanessa Rubin’s Mosaic she moved from a Jill Scott belt, to Thelma Houston gospel and a velvet whisper-we were eating out of her hand.
Perhaps the young crowd had been drawn in partly by Haines’ hi-profile musical past, which fused rave music with jazz sax. But on this gig they loved the way Haines reached into jazz history to find his future.