Thursday, 16 July 2015

JAZZ ICONS #13: Roy Haynes

c 1966

I am constantly practicing in my head I'm always thinking rhythms, drums.  When I was very young I used to practice a lot; not any special thing, but just practice playing.  Now I'm like a doctor.  When he's operating on you, he's practicing. When I go to my gigs, that's my practice.  I may play something that I never heard before or maybe that you never heard before.  It's all a challenge.  I deal with sounds.  I'm full of rhythm, man.  I feel it.  I think summer, winter, fall, spring, hot, cold, fast and slow –– colors.  But I don't analyze it.  I've been playing professionally over 50 years, and that's the way I do it.  I always surprise myself.  The worst surprise is when I can't get it to happen.  But it usually comes out.  I don't play for a long period, and then I'm like an animal, a lion or tiger locked in its cage, and when I get out I try to restrain myself.  I don't want to overplay.  I like the guys to trade, and I just keep it moving, and spread the rhythm, as Coltrane said. Keep it moving, keep it crisp.

Liner notes for Praise 

Some jazz musicians burst upon the scene in a blaze of glory, instantly capturing the public's attention as though this, and this alone, was what they were put on earth to do.  Others can take much longer to receive the recognition they deserve, their genius eclipsed –– at least temporarily – by musicians who, while no less brilliant or inspiring in their way, are more representative of the prevailing fashion for this or that sound, this or that 'school' or method of interpretation.  The problem can be compounded to some degree if the undervalued musician in question happens to be a drummer.  In jazz the rhythmic element is often something the listener takes for granted, without fully appreciating that it can be every bit as expressive as a trumpet, a saxophone, a piano or a guitar.  Drummers matter.  Without them, jazz as we know it would not and could not exist.

In a career spanning more than six decades, Roy Haynes has proven time and time again what a gifted and truly essential musician he is and how he fully he deserves his fondly bestowed nickname 'Snap Crackle.'  Even a cursory glance at his resumé reads like a Who's Who of modern jazz, with names like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Sarah Vaughan appearing alongside those of the next generation of pioneers including John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, Oliver Nelson, Andrew Hill, Chick Corea and Roy Hargrove.  With his idiosyncratic approach to melody, focusing on creating new cymbal patterns over a consistently crisp and driving snare, his playing has become the yardstick by which all other drummers –– jazz and rock alike – are frequently measured.  As his grandson and fellow drummer Marcus Gilmore explained it in a 2013 interview for National Public Radio:  'What people don't realize, when they talk about people like Roy Haynes as one of the great jazz drummers, is that really he is one of the original drummers creating the language for everybodyBut people don't think about it like that; they think of him as a jazz great. But the thing is really the drum – the trap set –– is pretty new, maybe like 100 years. If you're playing that much drums in 1945, that means you're one of the pioneers of the instrument.'

ROY HAYNES [drums]
Recorded 14 November 1958
From the New Jazz Records LP We Three 
Roy Owen Haynes was born on 13 March 1925 in Roxbury, a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the Massachusetts city of Boston.  His parents had come to the United States from the Caribbean island of Barbados and Haynes and his elder brother grew up surrounded by people of other races and cultures.  'We had an Irish family on one side of our home,' he remembered in a 2008 interview he gave to jazz journalist Marc Myers, 'French-Canadians on the other and a synagogue in front of our house.  It was great growing up with all different kinds of kids.'  His earliest musical influence was 'Papa' Jo Jones, drummer in the Count Basie Band and someone he actually met – by telling the doorman at the venue he snuck into that he was his hero's son –– when the Basie band passed through Boston in the late 1930s.  It was through his brother, however, that Haynes obtained his first pair of drumsticks which, he explained, had been lying 'around the house' for some time. 

Largely self-taught, Haynes was playing semi-professionally by his mid-teens and was famous enough in and around the Boston area to receive an offer to join the eighteen piece big band of pianist and arranger Luis Russell –– an offer made on the recommendation of a mutual friend because, at the time it was made, Russell had not yet heard him play.  One of his first gigs with the bandleader, whose organization he joined full-time in 1945, was at New York's legendary Savoy Ballroom.  'You learn a lot keeping time for a big band people are dancing to,' he told Myers, 'especially one that had to be on top of its game at the Savoy. I found out after I got back to Boston that I had changed the sound of that band after playing with them for more than a year. Luis didn’t tell me. Musicians had told my brother.'  Being based in New York also allowed him to explore the emerging be-bop style being pioneered at that time in Fifty-Second Street nightclubs like Minton's and Small's Paradise and to participate in some of the after-hours jam sessions that would prove crucial not only to its development but to the development of what, by the end of the 1940s, was being described by critics as 'modern jazz.'

By 1947 Haynes was a member of saxophonist Lester Young's band – a position he would relinquish in 1949 to work briefly with pianist Bud Powell and trumpeter Miles Davis before joining the Charlie Parker Quintet.  He recorded with all these artists on several occasions and also played on recordings by saxophonists Wardell Gray and Stan Getz.  In 1953 he joined the band of vocalist Sarah Vaughan, touring with her for the next five years and appearing on many of her most outstanding 1950s Emarcy LPs including Images (1954), Sarah Vaughan in the Land of Hi-Fi (1955) and the breathtaking Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown (1955).  In 1954, the Emarcy label also released Busman's Holiday, the drummer's first album as a leader featuring pianist Adrian Acia, saxophonists Sahib Shihab and Bjarne Nerem, trombonist Ake Persson and bassist Joe Benjamin.  This was followed later in the year by The Roy Haynes Sextet on the Vogue label, another 10" LP featuring the French pianist Henri Renaud and his guitar-playing countryman Jimmy Gourley.

The late 1950s saw Haynes consolidate his position as one of the most influential and in-demand drummers in jazz, his 1959-1960 work as a member of pianist/composer Thelonious Monk's band leading to a two year stint with groundbreaking saxophonist Eric Dolphy which in turn saw him work again extensively with Stan Getz and then with improvisational saxophone giant John Coltrane between 1961 and 1965.  The 1960s also saw him contribute as a sideman to many of the most memorable jazz LPs of the decade, including The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961) by saxophonist/arranger Oliver Nelson, Domino (1962) by saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk and Black Fire (1963) and Smokestack (1963) by the vastly underrated pianist/composer Andrew Hill.  Nor did his own work as a leader fall by the wayside, seeing him release four albums under his own name including Out For The Afternoon featuring the stellar playing of Roland Kirk, pianist Tommy Flanagan and bassist Henry Grimes in 1962.

In 1968 Haynes began what was to become a long, fruitful but intermittent working relationship with Chick Corea, with the release of the LP Now He Sings, Now He Sobs – an album which also featured the solid bass playing of Czech musician Miroslav Vitous – in March of that year marking a watershed in the development of trio jazz and a major leap forward in the pianist's compositional technique.  This session also marked the first appearance on record of the flat ride cymbal created by the Paiste cymbal company, offering drummers a 'tighter, brighter sound' that seemed tailormade for Haynes's fluid and by now legendary 'snappy' style of playing.

The final two years of the decade were busy ones for Haynes, seeing him tour extensively with Stan Getz and as a member of the working band of vibraphonist (and former Getz alumnus) Gary Burton.  The 1970s saw him release nine more albums as a leader and appear as a sideman on recordings by pianists Dave Brubeck and Tommy Flanagan, Jamaican born trumpeter Dizzy Reece and many other artists.  In 1983 he reunited with Chick Corea, appearing on three different albums and remaining a member of the pianist's working trio until 1987.  Two years later he performed on Question and Answer, an LP by Pat Metheny which marked the beginning of another important collaboration that was to endure well into the 1990s and eventually see the guitarist appear as a sideman on Haynes's own 1996 LP Té Vou.  That year also saw Haynes win the Best Drummer category in the annual DownBeat Readers' Poll Awards and receive a prestigious 'Chevalier des Ordres des Artes et des Lettres' decoration from French President Jacques Chirac.

Scrapple from the Apple
STAN GETZ [tenor saxophone]; GARY BURTON [vibes]
Recorded live for BBC TV UK, 1966

Other awards were to follow as the new millennium saw Haynes formally recognized as the artistic giant he is in his native land, with his 2004 induction into the DownBeat Hall of Fame followed by a 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (better known as the people who hand out  Grammy Awards each year).  This was followed in September by the release of Roy-Alty, his first LP as a leader since the 2006 release of Whereas and the 3 CD/1 DVD career retrospective A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story 1946-2006.  Haynes, who turned ninety in March 2015, was still performing as recently as 2013 as a member of Fountain of Youth, the new band he formed in 2004.

Thankfully, the legacy of Roy Haynes will not die with him when he's eventually forced to leave us.  His son, trumpeter Graham Haynes, still plays and records regularly, as does his twenty-seven year old grandson a no less formidable drummer who has played on albums by trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and, for a time, filled the drum chair in the Chick Corea Trio.  When asked to provide a reason for his grandfather's incredible longevity, Gilmore was quick to point out that it's his musical open-mindedness that's allowed Roy Haynes to remain at the forefront of jazz for more than sixty years.  'Another reason,' he added, 'is that it was just something he was born with, because in some ways, his playing hasn't changed that much.  It's evolved, but in some ways he was playing all that same bad shit in the 40s.  I don't know where he got it from.  To have him is a treasure.  A treasure to the family, but also as a national treasure, too, actually.'  While no one would argue with this, it's no exaggeration to say that Roy Haynes is jazz in many respects –– a trailblazer whose recorded works will remain the yardstick by which drummers will be measured for as long as human beings continue to compose, perform and record music together.  A true pioneer and a true original, he's perhaps the one musician for whom the term 'icon' may have been specifically coined.


You can listen to more great music by ROY HAYNES on YouTube by clicking HERE.  

To read the full 2008 ROY HAYNES interview by jazz journalist MARC MYERS published on his website JazzWax, please click HERE.

Special thanks to everyone who takes the time to upload music to YouTube.  Your efforts are appreciated by music lovers everywhere.

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