Given the physical demands of their chosen instrument, most drummers tend to lose steam as they approach middle age. Roy Haynes, on the other hand, has sailed past his 75th birthday without sacrificing a whit of his physical or psychic dexterity.
A bebop originator, Haynes seldom slips into a groove in standard drummer’s style. Instead, he plays across the rhythm, hitting his marks with terpsichorean grace only to skitter off to the next measure.
That can be a daunting challenge for the musicians he plays with — one that bassist John Patitucci and pianist Danilo Perez (likewise his partners on a recently released, self titled Verve album) proved ready to meet. Much of the material performed Thursday appears on the album.
Opening with a tightly knit rendition of Bud Powell’s “Wail,” pushed forward by Haynes’ insistent hi-hat and cymbal taps, the trio quickly established a dialog rife with sonic in-jokes and conspiratorial whispers. Patitucci, in particular, seemed to have Haynes’ number, answering each clattering foray with a busy fretboard run — as well as a rubber-faced emotional response worthy of a silent movie comic.
While they seldom went beyond the pale, the trio steadfastly eschewed the standard theme-solo-theme format most combos slip into when playing standards.
Perez unspooled several intriguingly disjointed patterns on a misty, urbane rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Easy to Remember.”
A similar tone emanated from the trio’s reading of Pat Metheny’s “Question and Answer,” on which the lissome leader delivered a remarkable tripartite solo that saw him traverse each section of his kit with a different spirit.
The material covered over the course of the set — other than a lively rendition of Chick Corea’s “Folk Song” — was quite cerebral. Neither Haynes nor his mates allowed that to occlude an upbeat spirit — and that disposition washed over the audience like a summer rain.