Spirited Fusion In the Spirit (Ralphie the Dog Records)
The Ron Hayden Group

By Tim Roberts

March has been an extraordinarily busy month for the Ron Hayden group, including a sell-out show at the Kentucky Center for the Arts along with the regular gig at Clifton's pizza. While their performances give them a growing fan base, the new release In the Spirit should bring them more. It is a pleasing, seamless blend of fusion and funk.

In the Spirit, the group's second recording, combines the talents of four of Louisville's premiere jazz performers: Ron Hayden on guitar and synth, Bennett Higgins on tenor saxophone, Tyrone Wheeler on electric bass, and Ted Richardson on drums. (Terry O'Mahoney fills in for Ted on "Gracious Rule")

Spirit opens with "This Business," a tune Ron has said reflects the music business. It leads with a fast, almost mechanical bass-and-drum rhythm over which Ron and saxophonist Bennett Higgins lay smooth solos that break free of the drive underneath them. This is followed by the darker-toned "Seldom Heard."

Ron goes a little ambient for "Oh Groovy One." Its tender keyboard and strummed guitar opening present a counterweight to the drive of the previous selections. Then it's back to the groove again for "The Basis of Colour," a tonal, bluesy number where Ty Wheeler's rumbling bass and Ted Richardson's on-the-mark percussion both seem to pull the rest of the band along.

The balance of the recording presents the same high quality sound and professionalism the group's fans get at every performance. That's what makes In the Spirit essential listening for jazz fans anywhere who appreciate superior production, creative and enjoyable selections, unquestionable professionalism, and a groove you'll want more of.