The Louis Hayes Quartet last night gave eloquent expression to the notion that the jazz musician and jazz listener of the 1980s can enjoy the best of both worlds in the same group.
At the One Step Down, the foursome blended the freedom of the contemporary single "Avant Garde" and the traditional values of mainstream sounds of yesteryear.
The combo's principal voice, saxophonist Bobby Watson, fashioned an opening original at furious tempo on a melodic model and cemented it with harmonic building blocks. His tone was rough and big to a keening high. On soprano sax he was jittery with a Near East sound a la John Coltrane. "In a Sentimental Mood," done in a relatively straightforward fashion on alto, and several straightahead bebop-tilted pieces filled out the set.
James Williams' piano was sometimes swallowed up in the more frenzied passages and in such circumstances he appeared to be resorting to a percussive role. However, when openings were provided he rose to impressive heights with great sweeping statements that encompassed the entire keyboard. Several extended and unaccompanied solos by Clint Houston showed him to be yet another virtuoso bassist with the soul of a horn player. Hayes was what he has been for several decades, a master drummer whether in the maelstrom of free blowing, as the steady time keeper of ballads or anywhere between the two.
The quartet performs again this evening. --W. Royal Stokes