"Stan Getz liked my beat, he loved to play with Roy
Haynes," says Roy Haynes, who likes the sound of his Third
Positive subjective judgments sound more objective
from that perspective. In his case, the sound itself implies stature.
Lester Young told him: "You should be called the Royal of Haynes."
Roy Haynes is the only drummer to have played with (not all at the
same time) Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John
Others also tend to refer to him with both names,
running them together, syncopated - Royhaynes, accent on the "Ro."
It sounds like him. Dorothy Donegan says he's getting to look more
like Count Basie drummer Jo Jones every day. Which means to say royal,
His discreet, flexible tatoo controls the time
and space and the dynamic of whatever formation he's part of. He's
compact, energy-packed, confident. He chooses his shots. He's a
warrior, the battle plan is his: "Remember Town Hall a few years
ago? You were there. I put Michel Petrucciani in the pocket. I'm known
for putting cats in the pocket. That's what I do." (The "pocket"
is the place where the pool-ball of tempo should be shot.)
started in 1944 at the age of 18 with Frankie Newton and Sabby Lewis
in his hometown Boston. His style eventually became so pervasively
subversive that, without being known as a leader, or even a "star,"
he is behind certain key elements common to an eclectic list of people
including Art Pepper, Sarah Vaughan, Chick Corea, Thelonius Monk, Eric
Dolphy and Gary Burton (Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes
were the rhythm section for Burton's mid-'60s groundbreaking jazz-rock
fusion efforts). >From 1961 to 1965, He was Elvin Jones's principal
substitute with the John Coltrane Quartet.
his time as "spreading, permeating." Leaving Charlie Parker
to form his own band, Max Roach advised his boss: "Hire Roy
The British critic Brian Priestly wrote: "Roy
manages to be intelligently insistent and provocative in accompaniment
without overpowering the soloist." Jazz Hot magazine put him on
its cover when he arrived in Paris in 1954 with Sarah Vaughan. (Roy
Haynes was impressed with a culture interested in the drummer not the
star.) "Roy Haynes should be immortalized," said Sonny
Rollins. "I can dig his statue somewhere, like the one of Sydney
Bechet in Antibes."
Although universally acknowledged as
a prime mover by soloists, leaders, critics and other drummers, the
general public has never truly appreciated his stature. When I asked
him why he thought that was, he looked at me with astonishment: "You
think I'm not appreciated? Man, you must be getting out of touch,
living here in Paris.
"I was giving a lecture for a workshop in Massachusetts
and when they announced 'Roy Haynes,' the kids shouted - kids are so
hip these days - they shouted 'Yeah yeah yeah' and cheered and
applauded. They just went crazy. I got a standing ovation for just
standing there. I hadn't even played yet. It just happened. Boom!"
hearing him in Chicago one night, a reporter from Down Beat magazine
said he didn't know he could play like that. Haynes did not consider
this a compliment: "You know, I'd been doing it for a long time.
And he wanted to know where I'd learned it. Man, a lot of drummers
copped my important stuff. I was there first."
the distinct impression that the reporter was surprised he could do an
Elvin Jones impersonation so well. But Roy Haynes knew for a fact that
Elvin had been listening to him play that way back in the '50s, before
anybody else was doing whatever you call it - "spreading the
rhythm," "suggesting the beat," "elastic," "melodic,"
This is the way the most advanced
drummers like Jeff (Tain) Watts (with the Marsalis brothers) and Jack
DeJohnette play now. Any credit witheld from him is not the drummers'
fault, they all admit their debt to Roy Haynes. But it's been going on
so long and it just got to him this time. He couldn't resist telling
the reporter: "I think you should talk to Elvin about that."
"I'm an uncrowned king," he says, head held high. "I
don't have to win any polls to know that." He does not win many. "I'm
cool, I know. I've been to the mountaintop."
Along the way, he began to dress like royalty - custom-made
suits, Italian shoes, sharp hats. Esquire magazine put him on their
best-dressed list. Along with Miles Davis, one of only two African
Americans, and only two jazzmen. The New York Times referred to him as
"the dapper drummer." he started to suspect that he was
better known for his clothes than his drumming. It got to be a "mixed
blessing, still is. If I have a hole in my sock, some girl will say:
'Hey, I thought you were supposed to be well dressed.'
"I have a 10-speed bike, quite a few grand-children, two
Doberman pinschers. I have an original 1974 Malcolm Bricklin car. You
know, he was De Lorean's buddy. I win prizes with it. I live in
Freeport on the south shore of Long Island, not far from where Guy
Lombardo used to live. I don't work a lot. I don't have to. I've made
myself comfortable. It's good for the mind to play music, but now
people are asking me to back up singers and do all-star tours with a
whole bunch of horn players. That stuff is not good for the mind. I
need time to think and dream. I'm a dreamer.
called and asked me to lead a sort of Art Blakey ghost band, he even
suggested I get some of the guys from the Jazz Messengers. His point
is it would make a lot of money, and he does have a point. But why
should I do that. It doesn't mean anything. This cat has got
to be joking. Man, I played with Bird, with Trane, I
played with Billie Holiday. Art Blakey used to admire me.
career is catching up with me. I call my own shots. I only play on
Roy Haynes dates. I'm the leader. I do what I want to do when
I want to do it. When I play, it has to mean something. Let it float
like a balloon. I'm talking about jazz. Other people did it,
but Roy Haynes did it and did it and did it.
like to pin compliments on myself, but..." Yes he does: "...But
I'm one of the last innovators from the '40s who's still out there
saying something new. I couldn't really be myself with Trane or Getz
because my job was to accompany them. They came first, that was my
role. And it was cool. They didn't need a drummer juggling between his
right and left feet and hands getting in their way. But my kids are
grown up, my mortgage is paid and now I don't have to worry about
making anybody sound good but myself.
"I have a good
band now. Young guys, they play the way I like. Anybody else wants me
to play with them, it has to be somebody I respect, somebody who wants
to take risks like I do. Guys like Pat Metheny" on "Question
And Answer," with Dave Holland, bass, Geffen Records. Dig it.
This is my religion. It's what I believe in. I don't waste beats. Roy
Haynes has no beats to waste."