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A tribute to Louis Hayes
Sunday, January 24th, 2010
While most people were at home watching the Jets lose to the Indianapolis Colts a small, but loyal following showed up to the Bassline for another "Sunday Serenade". This time VTY Jazz was honoring the great Louis Hayes. This tribute featured tenor saxophonist Willie Williams who along with long time Louis Hayes bassist Santi Debriano co led this interesting quintet. The front line was shared with trumpeter James Zollar and rounding out the quintet was the amazing pianist Benito Gonzalez and drummer Chuck McPherson. The biggest surprise of the afternoon was the guest of honor himself showing up and accepting an invitation to sit in.

The opening number was a Riley Mullins composition "Dear Lou". This had a clean light Samba feeling. Willie took the first solo followed by James Zollar. Benito followed with a solo and you knew he was right at home with this tune and his two handed solo was beautifully laid down. Santi's solo was a convincing one that had him swaying back and forth and enjoying the moment. Santi Debriano must have played this tune many times while being a part of Louis Hayes group. The next tune was a Louis Hayes original "Lou's Idea". James took the first solo and it was fresh and straight ahead. He definitely has an amazing musical intelligence. Willie was next and his solo was full of fire and energy. Chuck's drum work behind Willie was one that he was just enjoying staying right on the tenor's backside. It was quite clear that Santi too had a lot to add to Willies solo. Benito's solo was one you just had to shake your head about. He is fast becoming one of the more interesting pianists on the scene today. Chuck followed with a solo that was bright and tasteful before the group took it out. After Lou's idea the guest of honor himself showed up accompanied by Sandy Jordan, Clifford Jordan's widow and Gloria Ware, Wilbur Wares widow. You could see the whole room light up with the arrival of Louis and the ladies. After playing the Bobby Timmons composition "This Here" the group showed some love to the guest of honor with a beautiful rendition of "Polka Dot and Moonbeams". Willie Williams played with so much emotion on this tune that you knew this was something that was going to stay with you long after this "Sunday Serenade" was over. The first set closed with a spirited version of the Oscar Pettiford classic, "Bohemia After Dark". This was a sensational way to close the first set and you could see that band was having the time of their lives. Willie had mentioned that he remembered watching Louis Hayes on a You Tube Video when he was a member of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. He told the audience that he tried to slow the video down so he could see Louis's hands, forget it Willie in this case the hands are quicker than the eye :).

The second set opened up with the Lee Morgan original "The Sidewinder". The rhythm section set the foundation that had everyone on the bandstand as well as in the audience patting their feet and bobbing their heads. The next tune was a Sonny Clark original called "Bootin It". This was taken from the Dial "S" for Sonny recording that had Louis on drums. The tune has a bouncing feeling and Benito's solo was a swinging one. Chuck's drum solo had him using the whole drum kit. Not your typical solo for sure. Then the unexpected happened Willie had given Santi the microphone and Santi asked Louis "if he would grace the bandstand with them"? After a little coaxing the guest of honor himself took the bandstand for the beautiful Lee Morgan composition "Ceora". His drum solo on this tune was nothing less than spectacular, but the best was yet to come. The last tune was one that Louis called out and did they ever get into "I'll Remember April". The tempo on this was lightning fast and every soloist brought their best solos of the afternoon because if you hadn't, Louis was prepared to run you right out of the place. There was a point during Benito's solo that he and Louis almost ripped the roof off the Bassline. As James said after the piece "the stage was blessed". There wasn't much more you could say. At the end of the concert Willie Williams read to the audience from Wikipedia Louis Hayes bio. It was such a beautiful way to end this tribute to a drummer that has given this music so much.

I'm sure for the majority of the population January 24th, 2010 will mark the day that the participants for the Super Bowl was decided upon. That date will always mark for this listener and a handful of hard-core fans that made their way to the Bassline in Mount Vernon, NY the day that VTY Jazz gave Louis Hayes his due. As Willie had said so appropriately "the nice thing about this tribute is that you don't have to look down Louis to see it. He was right there and loved each and every minute of it. It was an amazing afternoon for one fabulous human being "Louis Hayes". Thank you Louis and never stop swinging.
- Arnie Perez
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