If you’re not open to the idea of a recording that has more to do with the exploration of sounds than with traditional musical forms, stop reading now.

If you’re open to that idea, but not to the idea of a drummer exploring sounds created exclusively on drumset and “found percussion,” stop reading now.

And if you’re open to a drummer exploring sounds, but only if the result is presented in a familiar rhythmic structure…well, you know what to do.

Phil Haynes’ first-ever solo release, called Sanctuary, is just about the most non-traditional drummer-made recording you can imagine.

Phil Haynes
Phil Haynes

The accompanying promotional literature says that the hour-long performance “blurs the lines between composition and improvisation, sound and space, instinct and action.” That pretty much sums it up.

Haynes himself—a 25-year veteran of the New York City jazz scene with some pretty impressive credits, which you should definitely check out on Google—says his goal was “to make a contemporary solo recording that could not only be enjoyed by drummers, audiophiles, avant-garde followers, and solo music fans, but that was a terrific recording of modern music, period. If music at its most basic level is ‘aesthetically organized sound,’ then why not advocate an expanded appreciation and application for the expressive beauty of the world’s first ‘found instruments’ – drums?”

Okay, let’s talk about the CD itself. To begin with, although it sees release on September 29th of this year, it was recorded in January of 1999. Its twenty-seven short tracks were selected from four hour-long sets recorded over two days at SFB Radio studios in Berlin Germany. The tracks were edited in October of that year, first mastered in March of 2002, and finally sequenced and mastered earlier this year. That’s a very long time to produce a solo album. Is it worth the wait?

Well, that depends. If you meet all of the criteria listed at the beginning of this review, then I’d say yes. Terms like “esoteric,” “evocative,” and “ethereal” describe the sounds on several tracks that feature as much air space as they do percussive notes. Other, more traditional “drumming” tracks demonstrate Phil Haynes’ obvious mastery of the drumset, both technically and acoustically.

Phil Haynes
Phil Haynes

I’m not talking about blazing concert-style solos; I’m talking about digging deep into the sonic possibilities and the joyous feeling of playing jazz-style drums all by one’s self. As described in the promo literature, such tracks give Haynes “an opportunity to showcase fine details lost in the din of ensemble jazz performance.”

This isn’t the sort of recording you’ll want to play in your car, or as background music while sitting at your computer. You need to give yourself the chance to really hear it, so that you can focus on and appreciate all of its nuances. Frankly, you may not feel the need to play it more than once. But, then—if you’re like me—once may be enough to make an indelible impression.

Rick Van Horn






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