By Ed Enright | Published November 2021
The latest album from Louis Hayes, recorded back in January, sports a title that seems completely appropriate for the COVID era from whence it sprang. Named after an early-’60s hard-bop tune by Freddie Hubbard, who was a close friend and contemporary of the veteran jazz drummer, Crisis is intended as a tribute to all of Hayes’ past and current colleagues. In addition to the title track, which deftly shifts grooves from swing to Latin and back again (à la “On Green Dolphin Street”), the program also includes classic material penned by jazz royals Bobby Hutcherson (“Roses Poses”), Lee Morgan (“Desert Moonlight”) and Joe Farrell (“Arab Arab”). Dezron Douglas and Steve Nelson, this session’s bassist and vibraphonist, each contribute compositions (“Oxygen” and “Alien Visitation,” respectively) that will surely resonate with listeners hungry for contemporary sounds and ideas. The versatile pianist David Hazeltine and the vital tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton round out the all-star quintet, which approaches the diverse source material with a combination of raw enthusiasm and easy coolness, hallmarks of hard-bop’s golden age — a time when Hayes regularly shared bandstands with giants of the late ’50s and early ’60s like Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and Woody Shaw. Three standards from the Great American Songbook (powerful renditions of “I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over” and “Where Are You?” by guest vocalist Camille Thurman, and a partially deconstructed zip through “It’s Only A Paper Moon”) link Hayes and his hard-bopping ilk to an even earlier period on the jazz timeline. The one original here by Hayes — a loose, twisty number called “Creeping Crud” — actually has the staying power to potentially become a standard one day, an enjoyably quirky relic from the sinister age of COVID. Hayes’ grooves on Crisis are solid yet completely unforced, and he kicks up plenty of magic dust throughout via the well-placed crashes, bombs, tom-rolls and snare cracks that have marked his signature swinging style for decades.