COMPOSERS: Kevin Haynes
LABELS: Egbe Oduniyi
ALBUM TITLE: Kevin Haynes Groupo Elegua
PERFORMER: Kevin Haynes (v, as, perc), Bennet McLean (ky), Nevil Malcolm (b), Davide Giovannini (v, d, perc), Bill Bland, Trevor Antonio, Ronald Thomas (v, perc), Niles Hailstone, Yawande Ogunnakie (narr)
CATALOGUE NO: EGBE 7593 (distr. MacTwo)
Formed in 1992 with the aim of incorporating the Yoruba roots of Afro-Cuban music into contemporary jazz, Groupo Elegua is the brainchild of saxophonist/percussionist/dancer Kevin Haynes. The band’s debut album, Tomorrow’s Path, was a heady mix of passionate, declamatory saxophone, chanted vocals and Afro-Cuban rhythms, all propelled by bata drums, congas and other percussion instruments.
Ori Ire, despite featuring a substantially changed line-up, sticks pretty closely to the same formula. The spiritual rootedness of Haynes’s music – not to mention his slightly tart, slippery saxophone sound – invites comparison with the work of American alto-player Steve Coleman.
Haynes’s approach, however, is less overtly funky, owes less to street beats than his US counterpart’s, and is more imbued both with the dance rhythms that informed his early career with the Afro International Dance and Drama Company and Dance Company 7, and the folkloric music of Cuba, which Haynes studied during extensive trips to the island in the Nineties.
Ori Ire, after grounding itself in a vocal chant over bata drums, showcases Haynes’s rich, powerful alto in a variety of settings, ranging from lopes over chattering percussion and commentary on the two narrated tracks to the dreamily hypnotic, highly affecting Rolling Down Her Face’, before ending as it began, with the bata drum.
But whatever it’s playing, Haynes’s band is uninhibitedly vigorous yet subtly cohesive, and the album’s titular aspiration to striving after ‘acknowledgement of the spiritual self’ is triumphantly vindicated throughout. Chris Parker