On BPM (i.e.,"beats per minute"), Graham Haynes intermingles Miles-influenced horn lines, techno rhythms, world music grooves, ambient textures, and -- brace yourself -- samples of Wagnerian opera, with surprisingly successful results. The CD begins forcefully with "Variations on a Theme by Wagner," inspired by Richard Wagner's final opera "Parsifal." Heavy with the sound of timpani, the rhythm pounds away beneath an almost reserved solo by Haynes during the piece's middle section. Haynes concentrates on his horn's middle register and seems to choose his phrases carefully, drawing out and clearly articulating the notes with nary a hint of vibrato. He holds the listener's attention with lyricism and understatement, which are juxtaposed effectively against the metronomic precision of the rhythm track.
Those preferring rhythmic flexibility and a more open, jazzier feel might prefer "Variation No. 2," also inspired by Wagner's "Parsifal." The bass on this piece has a refreshingly organic sound and the percussion samples are employed, at least initially, with some stop-and-start playfulness. The subsequent tune "Telluride" has engagingly retro synth and horn effects and, thanks to drummer Marque Gilmore, rhythmic embellishments that break out of the mechanistic mode at a fast and frenetic pace. However, BPM is not completely dominated by propulsive dance beats and sampled percussion; moody atmospherics play a large role in pieces such as the ruminative "Tristan in the Sky" featuring ethereal guitar from Brandon Ross and the ominous "Climate" with programming by DJ Spazekraft.
BPM is a recording of sharp contrasts with a surprise around every corner. Those offended by cross-genre pollination might grimace at the jungle-meets-Wagner concept and acoustic jazz fans would likely flee in mock terror from the CD's pervasive electronics, but this recording was not produced with such listeners in mind. Rather, BPM seems aimed at fans of electronic dance music who are ready to embrace jazz, classical, and world music as all part of the mix. Haynes uses technology to create imaginative and even subtle sonic environments, and, of course, he is an evocative player on his primary instrument, the good old-fashioned cornet. Even amidst all the electronic processing, his horn stands out, providing a level of expression that humanizes and elevates BPM's synthetic sounds.