Since returning to New Mexico a few years ago—and packing a résumé that includes performances with Diahann Carroll, Al Greene and Clark Terry—drummer Cal Haines has been much in demand on the jazz scene, appearing with the Alpha Cats and backing headliners at various venues in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Last winter, though, gigs “weren’t too plentiful,” says Haines, and he started thinking that he needed to find gigs on his own. At about the same time, an acquaintance offered him some free studio time, and Haines quickly pulled together a trio for the occasion.
Now, just a few months later, the Cal Haines Trio has released—seemingly out of nowhere—an absolute stunner of a CD. The Bright Side is making its Albuquerque debut at the Outpost on Thursday, followed by the John Proulx/Bobby Shew Quintet.
With free studio time available, Haines called bassist Michael Glynn, with whom he’d worked at Scalo behind Stu MacAskie. “If you divide time up, you can play in the center [of the beat], you can play in the back, you can play in the front,” says Haines. “Well, I play in the front most of the time, and Michael plays in the front, so Michael was an obvious choice.”
Then there’s guitarist Lewis Winn, founding father of the Alpha Cats, with whom Haines has played for years. Winn jumped in with both feet and all 10 fingers with some of the best playing of his career.
Meanwhile, trumpeter Bobby Shew had invited Haines to play a Music in Corrales concert last fall, backing Shew and vocalist/pianist/composer John Proulx (pronounced “prue”), a major emerging talent. Haines invited Proulx to sing on four tracks, but just before the vocalist returned to New Mexico to record them, the free studio time unexpectedly dried up.
Haines placed an emergency call to award-winning producer/pianist John Rangel, who agreed to produce the sessions in his studio at the last minute. Just released, The Bright Side features four originals, two each from Glynn and Winn, as well as seven standards, among them, “Embraceable You,” “So Near, So Far,” “Infant Eyes,” “Blues on the Corner” and “Segments.” The CD has already landed the group several gigs—it’s clearly time for the Cal Haines Trio.
Proulx will join the trio in the first set as a vocalist on a few tunes. Then, as pianist and vocalist, he’ll pair up with Bobby Shew for the second set with the trio as rhythm section.
“John’s one of my favorite people,” says Shew.
The two met at a gig at Charlie O’s in L.A. about four years ago when Proulx subbed for the regular pianist behind Shew. At a later gig, Shew called “But Not for Me,” and Proulx mentioned that he sang that tune. “You sing?” said Shew.
Yes, he does, with a warm, rich tone and an understated delivery that can compress a song’s emotional content into almost unbearable density. He has a special affinity for Chet Baker, whose territory he explores on his upcoming CD Baker’s Dozen (MAXJAZZ).
“I’ve been drawn to Chet Baker for a number of reasons—first being his melodic playing. It’s very singable,” says Proulx. “When I heard him sing, I was amazed at how similar our voices were in terms of the range. When I would sing along with him on recordings, it was like singing with myself. It was kind of spooky at times.”
Proulx points out that he’s not trying to imitate Baker. “The CD is a reinvention of those standards he was known for,” says Proulx, who’s looking to give them “a different spin.”
The quintet will explore some of those tunes, as well as material from Proulx’s first CD, Moon and Sand (MAXJAZZ).
First set or second, you can depend on beautiful melody, lyricism and musicianship of the highest order.