Roy Haynes, who turns 87 today, is the living embodiment of the notion that, for certain human beings, age is nothing but a number. Haynes continues to astonish with his brilliance and creativity at the drumkit. I’m posting below an article that I wrote about the maestro for Jazzizin 2007, the interview that we did for that piece, and three prior interviews—from 2005, for a birthday piece in the New York Daily News and an article I wrote for Downbeat about the emergence of modern jazz in Greenwich Village; from 2000, for an old webzine (http://community.musiciansfriend.com/docs/DOC-2453); and from 1996, when Mr. Haynes joined me live on WKCR for about three hours of a five-hour Jazz Profiles show devoted to his work.
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Jazziz Article (2007)
“I am old school with a hip attitude,” Roy Haynes announced from the front of the Birdland bandstand, head cocked, jaw jutting upward, his eyes darting around the room. He had just concluded a pithy, precise and forceful variation on the form of “Trinkle-Tinkle,” a notoriously involved Thelonious Monk line that Haynes first encountered close to half-century ago on an extended gig with Monk at the legendary Five Spot in Greenwich Village.
Haynes wore boots of soft calfskin leather, visible in a narrow crescent beneath flared black velour pants with buttons up to the calves, into which was tucked in a trim black t-shirt underneath a flowing, open tan shirt. He swayed, rocking on the balls of his feet.
“I’m playing the same stuff I played a long time ago,”Haynes continued. “And it’s working.” Suddenly he rat-a-tatted a sequence of syncopated steps, ending with an emphatic left foot stomp. He laughed at his audacity .
With a hoofer’s elegance, Haynes, three months shy of 82, pivoted to his drumset, each of the toms encased in white pearl. He lifted his Yamaha 14″-by-5½” signature snare drum, made of hand-hammered copper, cradled it, and presented it for the house to admire. After further banter, he returned the snare drum to his stand, sat on his stool, and sticked crisp triplet variations on the snare. He answered himself with a complementary bass drum pattern, and responded to that with a rumbling dance on the toms, interpolating hi-hat splashes to decorate the ever-surging rhythmic puzzle, subdivisions piled upon subdivisions. Bassist David Wong stated a vamp, pianist Martin Bejarano played dramatic altered chords, and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw stated the insinuating melody of Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” which Haynes had recorded with Charlie Parker in 1954. Bejerano uncorked a whirling, ascendent solo that launched Shaw into a high-intensity declamation that channeled the spirit of John Coltrane, whose quartet Haynes propelled on numerous occasions between 1961 and 1965 when Elvin Jones—himself deeply influenced by Haynes in his formative years—was unable to make the gig, including several recordings that rank high in the Coltrane canon.
During the preceding fifty minutes on this middlingly attended Thursday evening first set, Haynes had propelled his group of twenty-somethings, titled the Fountain of Youth Quartet, through repertoire that represented a sort of musical autobiography—Parker’s “Segment,” Wayne Shorter’s “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum,” Pat Metheny’s “James,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge.” Strayhorn was the only composer with whom Haynes had not performed or recorded during his sixty-plus years as a professional musician. It’s a linkup that might have been had Haynes accepted Ellington’s job offer in 1952.
“I was with Bird and we’d just finished playing a double bill with Duke at Carnegie Hall,” Haynes related a few days before. “Duke called me, but I knew that the horn players, the older guys, would have had a problem with my style.” Some twenty years later, Haynes played a Jazz Vespers concert with his group, the Hip Ensemble, at New York’s jazz church, St. Peter’s, on the anniversary of Strayhorn’s death. “I used to come out of a drum solo and go into ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing,’ which was known as the Negro National Anthem back in the day,” Haynes recalled. “As we went into it, and I went into 3/4 time, I noticed Duke and his doctor, Arthur Logan, standing up with the whole congregation. I had many highlights during my career, but that one stands out in my mind.”
Ellington is one of the few jazz immortals with whom Haynes did not perform—he mentions Benny Carter and Ornette Coleman as two missed opportunities. Hence, his strategy of performing tunes to which he has a direct connection—in addition to the aforementioned, Haynes references the likes of Lester Young, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Oliver Nelson, McCoy Tyner, and Chick Corea, all employers at various points—imparts a sense that one is hearing entire history of jazz from an insider’s perspective. Indeed, while earning a living as a first-call sideman, playing the function at hand in an idiomatic, team-oriented manner, Haynes contributed consequentially to almost every stylistic development of the idiom—bebop and postbop, piano trios and singers, Coltrane’s energy music and the more chamber-oriented aspects of the ‘60s avant-garde, the jazz embrace of the beats of Africa, the Caribbean islands, American dance music.
“Once in Chicago, a lady came over and said that my music reminded her of the four seasons,” he remarks. “I thought that was a compliment, because I try to express a bit of what was happening in the different seasons of my life.” Those seasons represent a timeline in which Haynes links King Oliver and Baby Dodds (in 1945, Haynes left Boston, his hometown, to join pianist Luis Russell, Louis Armstrong’s musical director throughout the ‘30s) to such potential stars of 2040 as FOY members like Shaw, Bejarano, and Marcus Strickland, or Haynes’ grandson, 19-year-old drummer Marcus Gilmore, who currently plays with Corea.
“With Roy, you never feel you’re listening to a player whose style is locked into a certain period,” says bassist Dave Holland, who recorded on the 2001 Haynes “all-star” project, Birds of A Feather, on Haynes’ superb 2002 studio album Love Letters, and on a 1998 Gary Burton-led quintet with Haynes, Corea and Metheny entitled Windows. He also played on Question and Answer, a 1990 Pat Metheny album that brought Haynes to the attention of a post-Boomer audience.
“I see a lot of similarities between his playing and Miles,” Holland continues. “Roy developed a way of playing drums that, at the core, was essentially him, but transposed into being able to work in many different contexts. It’s an open, fluid way of playing that gives you a chance to really get inside the dialogue.”
“Miles cut it off in a slick way,” Haynes acknowledges of Davis’ break with his roots in the plugged-in ‘70s. “He dressed like his audience, so to speak — dressed better than them, of course. But when he was playing the mute, he was still playing his regular shit, surrounded by the other things. That’s where he tricked motherfuckers. That’s packaging.”
Unlike Davis, a close friend with whom he shared a taste for fast cars and contemporary threads, Haynes shapes foundational vocabulary to suit the here-and-now while still honoring his origins. “Sometimes I’m still playing a little TITTY-BOOM,” he says, referring to an apocryphal story in which Lester Young, with whom he debuted on a dance gig at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in 1947, tells him, “don’t drop no bombs on me, Lady Haynes, just give me a little TITTY-BOOM.” “I’m still playing DING-DA-DING, DING-DA-DING on some of the stuff, but not everything. It varies. The song says ‘nothing stays the same…’
“Some people tell me I’ve changed, but I don’t agree with that one hundred percent. I may approach some things differently, but I had all of these things in mind a long time ago, when I was playing with a lot of people. I didn’t do them then, because I didn’t know if they would fit.”
During his 1947-49 tenure with Young and over the next four years with Powell, Davis, Getz and Parker, Haynes differentiated himself from the pack and made it fit, sustaining an intense four/four swing groove with a kinetic, non-metronomic ride cymbal beat, punctuating with bass drum interpolations, not relying on second and fourth beat placements on the hi-hat as a security blanket. “I can’t even do that if I tried,” Haynes said. “Now, sometimes I just put my foot on the side, and play it when I want to play it, rather than keep a continuous beat on the hi-hat. Which I didn’t do too much, although certain people liked that or wanted that.”
By eschewing that rhythmic grid, Haynes was able to create a continuous flow and avoid cliched patterns. “I dance around the 2 and 4, but it’s still there,” he says. “But some people depend upon the drummer for the time; maybe they go against the time and wait for the drummer to let them know where it is. But I like to play with people who have a built-in drummer. Coltrane had it. His notes were so even. Miles was hip to it, and so was Gene Ammons. When I was with Luis Russell, playing the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1946, I’d walk down State Street to a place called Club Congo to sit in with Jug. He could play with a drummer. Same with Lester Young and Bird and Monk and Chick. The time is right there. All you have to do is design around it. I tap dance on the drums sometimes. I’m always thinking about rhythms and beats, even when I walk, which dancers do.”
“Roy has a way of looking down a long line of rhythmic permutations, 32 or 64 bars ahead,” says pianist David Kikoski, who played regularly with Haynes between 1984 and 2002. “He’s feeling it. He can count it if he wants, but he does it in a very natural way. He jumps around, but it all works. He plays more odd time phrases than anyone. On his solo drum sections, he does a lot of groupings of 5 and 7. But he might not know that he’s playing in 7, or he might not think of it as that.”
As drummer Lewis Nash points out, Haynes has long used all the tools at his disposal to express these ideas. “Roy wasn’t just comping with his left hand,” Nash says of his early-career recordings. “He comped pretty much with all four limbs, and wasn’t afraid to do things that highlight the basic pulse rather than stating it. Nobody else was doing this to the degree he did. Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams and others who came along in the ‘60s and wanted to be considered modern and fresh, were building on things that Roy was doing. Now, Roy had a strong concept of swinging, and if you really digest him, you won’t miss the stuff that Max Roach or Kenny Clarke did before him, because it’s in there. But you will in addition get some other, more adventurous ways of approaching timekeeping.”
In developing his approach, Haynes—who regards ‘30s big band swingers like Jo Jones, Chick Webb, and Sonny Greer as early models, met Clarke, Roach and Art Blakey in Boston during the early ‘40s, and admired Chicago drum legend Ike Day—may have drawn inspiration from Ubaldo Nieto, a Puerto Rican drummer who played with Machito, a frequent presence at the original Birdland. “He had timbales, a bass drum and no hi-hat his setup,” says Haynes, who is himself of Barbadan descent. “I listened to him all the time, and I was always going up the street to the Palladium to hear Tito Puente and all the other bands.”
“Roy incorporated elements of the Afro-Cuban thing way before it was fashionable,” says bassist John Patitucci, who joined pianist Danilo Perez in a brilliant Haynes-led cross-cultural trio between 1999 and 2001 “By the early ‘50s, he was combining funky straight eighth note playing with triplet-based swing, which is indicative of New Orleans music and other African music. Every drummer’s calling card is their ride cymbal feel, and Roy’s is incredible, with a great forward motion, but loose, not nervous at all. It propels the music with incredible buoyancy and a beautiful force, and hip as it was, I never felt like I was being covered up. That kind of relaxed burn is unusual. Also, he can play very dense at a lot of different volumes. That’s virtuosity.
“Once I told him that it drives me crazy when drummers play all this incredible stuff behind the soloists, and when it comes time for the bass solo, all of a sudden it’s TICK-TICK-A-TICK-TICK on the hi-hat, real soft, with nothing happening. He said, ‘Wait a minute. You watch. I got some special stuff on the hi-hat for you, too.’ He proceeded to shatter my whole theory that you can’t play hi-hat behind the bass and be hip. Again, it wasn’t overpowering but it was really slick.”
Towards the end of the ‘60s, Haynes discovered Carnaby Street fashion and brought straight eighth feels and odd-meters more explicitly into his sound, first in Gary Burton’s pathbreaking Jazz-Rock unit, then with the Hip Ensemble, a wild band that included outcats George Adams on tenor saxophone and Hannibal Marvin Peterson on trumpet. Haynes introduced them on a gig behind a singer covering Beatles repertoire at the Scene, a West Side disco.
“Jimi Hendrix saw us there, and came up on the stage, though he didn’t play,” Haynes recalls. “Chick Corea was living in Queens then, and I rehearsed at his house. He came to the club opening night, and he said, ‘Roy Haynes, you really can form a band.’ We played some funk, too; I was doing a lot of stuff in 7/8. We had a regular piano, but an electric bass, and I was using big baseball bat drumsticks that belonged to the drummer in the other band. Billy Cobham was checking us out, and Chick came to my house to get a cymbal, the flat ride that all the drummers had to play when he started Return to Forever.”
“Roy has an open mind to many different things,” says Kikoski. “He knows the lyrics to songs by the Doors or by Paul McCartney; different kinds of music through all the generations. That’s why he still sounds so contemporary. He’s drawn from all the different cultures and mixed them together in his style, some consciously and some I’m sure unconsciously. With his Barbadan roots, he definitely has that island groove thing happening. You also hear the 12/8-ish African thing. Then you hear the East Coast hard-swinging kind of thing.”
“They’re all within what I play, but I don’t particularly analyze it as such,” says Haynes. “It’s in my walk. It’s in my strut. I’m not a metronome, and I don’t play in a way that everything has to be metered down to the numbers. I probably wouldn’t be able to keep that up. My mind would start wandering, and I’d be in another meter somewhere else. I never got into the rudiments. If I did, I probably would sound like everybody else—maybe. I did a thing called Drum Festival in Montreal. A lot of drummers there. Now, if I played rudiments, they’re hip to that. But I come up with the Roy Haynes shit, and it blew all of their minds. I breathe the way I breathe and sneeze the way I sneeze. I think there can be a poem there!”
He refers to a kaleidoscopic drum solo from his latest CD (Whereas [Dreyfus]) entitled “Hippidy Hop,” a spontaneous polyrhythmic meditation on vernacular dance steps from tap to hip-hop. “I can go into another gear, sometimes one that people are not aware that I can go to,” Haynes says. “I recently participated in a Drum Roundtable where it was played at the end, and I was screaming. I didn’t practice that solo. I said, ‘Man, I’m going to learn that,’ but I’ll probably never be able to play it again.
“When I get behind the set, sometimes I don’t know what direction I’m going to go. It’s like an abstract painting, adding certain things and leaving out others as you proceed. I try to let the music stroll. I get up more than I used to, and let it breathe. Sometimes I take chances. I’ll go overboard. We can play the same song all night, make something different happen within it, and take it to the moon. You won’t know where we are. When you get that kind of understanding on the bandstand, it’s the greatest feeling. Talk about eating some good food or having some good sex! It tops all of that.”
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Roy Haynes (Dec. 11, 2006) – (for Jazziz):
TP: Didn’t Sugar Ray own a club?
ROY: Sugar Ray had a bar on 7th Avenue, yes. Sugar’s Ray’s.
TP: Did he have music there?
ROY: Later on he did. When would it have been? Maybe late ‘50s.
TP: Did you play there?
ROY: No, I never played there.
TP: Did you box ever?
ROY: Not really. I had a bag. It’s in Vegas now. I bought a place in Vegas in the last few years, since 9/11. I’ve got a house in Vegas with a pool and everything…all of that crap. It’s something I wanted to do, and I did it.
TP: What the editor wants me to do on this piece, roughly, is what everyone else does when they talk to you these days. It’s the cover story for an issue of which the theme is traditions. He want to talk about traditions, continuity, and looking into the future. Now, any interview with you is about traditions, continuity and looking into the future. Now, at this point, I’ve done three fairly comprehensive interviews with you. Once on WKCR, you talked a lot about your early life. We did one that’s on the Internet where you talked about the way the drums have changed and drum styles have changed. And we did this interview two years ago for the Daily News.
What does the word “tradition” mean to you at this point? Does it have any meaning to you? Is it a meaningless term?
ROY: When I hear the word “tradition,” it makes me think of a long time ago. It makes me think of something that happened a long time ago. That’s the way it grabs me.
TP: My impression is that you have a very good memory for things that happened a long time ago.
ROY: I hear that a lot of old people do. I hear a lot of old people say they can remember what happened twenty years ago, but they can’t remember what happened last night.
TP: it doesn’t seem to be that way for you, though.
ROY: A little bit. The last few years, man, I put down something, and man… A lot of that’s happening.
TP: First I’d like to talk a little generally drums and you in relation to drums. What got you interested in drumming? You mentioned that your parents knew that you were interested in drumming, and they got you lessons with a guy on your block in Boston…
ROY: Herbie Wright.
TP: Herbie Wright, who’d been in the Jenkins Orphanage. He taught you mama-daddy and all this…
ROY: Right, right. You’ve got a good memory yourself.
TP: What got you interested in doing this? What kind of guy was he? Just how the notion of being a musician entered your consciousness.
ROY: Well, ever since I can remember, I was banging. I was playing on things. Rhythm. Listening to a lot of music. On the radio… They had good radio stations in Boston.
TP: Even in the ‘30s?
ROY: Definitely, man. That’s when I heard Artie Shaw, naturally, Basie, Duke, singers like Billie Holiday, Fats Waller—all of that was on the radio. Basie made a tune called 9:20 Special. I guess that was on the dial, the 920 Club. Man, I heard everything there, ever since I can remember.
TP: Were you always paying attention to the drummers? Were the drums coming through on the radio?
ROY: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a drummer. So I was listening to the drummer… Everything. Listening to the singers and listening to the lyrics. I learned lyrics early, a lot of the old songs. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I wanted to play drums…
TP: Well, 9:20 Special was about 1937 or 1938, so you would have been 12 or 13.
TP: And you were interested in the drums before that.
ROY: Yes, I had that rhythm. I was a natural drummer, as they said in those days. That was a term they would use when somebody just woke up and started playing.
TP: How many siblings did you have?
ROY: Three brothers. Two older and one younger.
TP: One of them studied music though he wasn’t a professional musician.
ROY: That was Douglas, the oldest one.
TP: Did you have a brother who was a minister.
ROY: Yes, Michael, the one who’s younger than me. He’s still in Boston.
TP: Was it a family where music was part of the network of family relations, part of the overall thing?
ROY: No, not necessarily. Because my mother was very religious. She didn’t like the idea of me playing all my records, especially on Sundays. And I played them all the time—Sunday, Monday and Tuesday!
TP: Branford Marsalis told me that when he was in Boston, he met your brother who admonished him not to go to New York…
ROY: Really? I haven’t heard that. I’ve heard Branford say many times that my brother told him not to play jazz. But my brother doesn’t seem to remember that. I mentioned that to him. Branford must have mentioned it to quite a few people.
TP: Was it just an accident that you became a professional musician? Do you ever remember wanting to be anything else?
ROY: I never remember wanting to be anything else. When I was a teenager, I started playing gigs, making a few dollars…
TP: A guy named Tom Brown, a Charlie Christian style guitarist.
ROY: You remember that. Yeah. Tom Brown, and a pianist who played with us also named Hillary Rose. He probably was the older one. He could hustle and get gigs. Naturally, all pianists can always get gigs—trios or solo or whatever. So I was working with them when I was pretty young. I think the first gig I got paid for was with those guys.
TP: Who were your models? You mentioned as your idol. You dug Cozy Cole, too…
ROY: You’ve read it! Cozy Cole. I met Shadow Wilson a little later. J.C. Heard. Jimmy Crawford I didn’t meet until I got to New York. He was the drummer with Lunceford. I didn’t really get close to Sonny Greer until I was much older, here in New York, when we got very close.
TP: What I’m aiming towards is how you started to form your approach to the drums? Was it a meticulous, analytical thing? Was it more of a flow?
ROY: I would think it’s more like a flow. I was naturally listening to Art Blakey a lot when I was a teenager…
TP: You knew him, too.
ROY: Oh, yeah. We got very close. He used to call me his son back when he was in Boston. He came to Boston with Fletcher Henderson a couple of times. One time he came with Fletcher and stayed there. Then, naturally, I was listening to Max when he first recorded. I think he recorded with Coleman Hawkins; that was the first recording I heard him. Then, BOOM!
TP: Did the things they were doing seem logical to you as a young guy? Did it make sense to hear the way the drummer on Woody ‘N You was approaching things, or on Bird and Dizzy’s first records? Did it immediately make sense to you?
ROY: It made sense to me right away.
TP: Why did it make sense?
ROY: I don’t know. Being the age… I’m a year younger than Max, and I never did know Art Blakey’s age until… What year was it?
TP: I believe it was 1919.
ROY: He would have been 87. A year younger than Hank Jones.
TP: He’s six years older than you.
ROY: That last question you asked was a hard one.
TP: But I think it’s an important question.
ROY: Ask me the question again.
TP: As a young guy and a student of the drums from very young, and also because of the functions and requirements of the gigs you were playing, you had a certain way of hearing what you were supposed to do. It was supposed to swing and make people move their feet, and probably not be too loud so the guys… Drummers should be felt and not heard type of thing.
ROY: Oh, you read that. I’ve said that many times.
TP: You were coming up within that. A lot of drummers of your generation felt the drums were being muffled, held back, and the idea is that many things that happened after WW-2 were a flowering of rhythmic self-expression, unchaining the drums. Since you’re so articulate about what you do and your memory is so strong, and since what you’re doing now is so Right-Now and not Then, I think it would be an interesting launching point to bring you back to your mindset at 16-17-18.
ROY: That’s a hard one. But, what they told me I did have was… The word “swing” had somewhat of a different meaning during that period. That was really the feel that you had. That’s the word that would be used today, would be the feel — “you’ve got a good feel.” But to swing mainly was with that right hand, BING-DING-DA-DING, DING-DA-DING, and whatever I had, it was really loved by most of the older musicians at that time, such as Lester Young… I played a little with Coleman Hawkins. I used to play a lot with Pete Brown, the alto player, when he would come to Boston. The guy who used to help me with my drums, Scottie, he often said that Sweets Edison said, “Roy Haynes is the swingingest motha…” Heh-heh. He was with Basie, and Basie was known as the King of Swing. Well, they called Benny Goodman the King of Swing, but then they nicknamed Basie the Jump King of Swing. They called Benny Goodman the King of Swing, but we know… But that thing is what a lot of the older players liked in my style of playing, and I know that’s what gave me a lot of gigs. I joined Prez in 1947…
TP: That was two years after you came to New York.
ROY: Yeah. I came to New York in 1945. I joined him at the same place I joined Luis Russell, the Savoy Ballroom, where people were dancing while you’re playing. There were always two bands there. Prez loved it. After a couple of tunes… I’ve said this many times; I won’t even repeat it now…
TP: He said, “Prez, you sure are swinging.”
TP: But he didn’t say “give me a little titty-boom.”
ROY: He didn’t say that, no. That’s the way he would talk anyhow. But he didn’t suggest anything to me, what to do. Because I knew what he wanted, and I was still dancing with my left hand and my right foot back and forth, and I was giving him that.
TP: Could you have given him that in 1943 or 1944?
ROY: Of course.
TP: So your right hand conception of the cymbal was together when you were 17-18 years old.
ROY: I had that, yeah.
TP: Did Art Blakey ever talk to you about drumming, aesthetics, dos and donts?
ROY: Art Blakey always used to tell me about…what’s that drummer’s name from Chicago…
TP: Not Ike Day.
ROY: Ike Day! Art Blakey was telling me about Ike Day when I was very young. You know, sometimes you’d come and play your heart out, but there was always someone else telling you it was great, but you should hear BUM-BUM-BUM.
TP: He was the baddest of them all, according to some people.
ROY: He was something!
TP: did you hear him?
ROY: Yes. Oh, I met him. In fact, when I was with Sarah, playing the Chicago Theater, he was in the hospital then, and he snuck out of the hospital with his hospital clothes on to come backstage to see me—to ask for something. Heh-heh. When I replaced Max with Charlie Parker, which was 1949… Well, you heard that story, too. I was playing with Miles, and Miles used to say that Charlie Parker stole his drummer. So I was still playing with Charlie Parker at the Three Deuces, and they always had two groups there. After Max left… I never knew until maybe a few years ago that Max wanted to come back. He said, “Roy Haynes took my gig and never gave it back to me.” I said, “oh, I was supposed to?” Anyhow, he comes into the Three Deuces with Bud Powell, and I was playing with Bird. I had his original gig. In the meantime, Slim Gaillard was coming into Bop City from California, and he had Ike Day. Maybe before he opened, the night before (he got in a day early), he came to the Three Deuces. Max was playing with Bud Powell and I’m playing with Charlie Parker. Max had him to sit in, and Max grabbed me by the arm and said, “Okay, we’re both going to sit down and check him out.” I’ll never forget that. It was pretty wild. Everybody loved this guy, man.
TP: Can you give some appoximation of his style?
ROY: He could swing. All the drummers from the West… I’m not talking about the West Coast; I’m talking about Chicago or Kansas City. Most of those drummers could really swing. They had that thing. I wish I could have heard him more, or if he had recorded then I could listen to that and explain his playing. But he was a younger guy from Chicago who was very hip.
TP: Was he breaking the rhythm?
ROY: That I don’t remember exactly. But I’m sure he was playing little things.
TP: Someone told me that someone hired Ike Day similar to what Buddy Rich did with Philly Joe Jones… Maybe Woody Herman.
ROY: Could have been.
TP: But Art Blakey was telling you to check out Ike Day. I’m sorry to keep harping on the ‘40s…
ROY: No problem.
TP: But it’s such a direct connection… If the drum vocabulary is a language, then you have a direct connection in a way that hardly anyone else has now, to the way people were speaking on the drums in the ‘30s and ‘40s, when the function was very different. The way we think about drummers in the ‘30s has to be very different than what it actually was because of recording technology. When you were at a ballroom, it had to be a different thing to hear Jo Jones and Jimmy Crawford right there than on one of their three-minute records.
ROY: But that swing thing was the main thing.
TP: Did drummers take liberties with the drums, with the timbres within the kit…
ROY: Some drummers did. A good guy for that was Sonny Greer. He had a kit. He had the chimes and the timpanis and wooden blocks. Chick Webb had temple blocks, three or four or five of them.
TP: So some of these guys were playing a whole percussion orchestra behind their kit in real time.
ROY: Oh, yeah.
TP: When did people start to play tempos at the velocities that became more common after World War 2?
ROY: Fast tempos? That was happening at the jam sessions like Minton’s. I started going there in ‘45 when I got to New York. It was happening moreso here in New York than on a lot of recordings way back, until Bud Powell and Bird… Heh-heh.
TP: Those ‘45 recordings like Shaw Nuff and Ko-Ko. Between ‘45, when you were with Luis Russell, and ‘47, when you joined Prez, I guess you probably on the road a lot. Did your conception of the drums change then? Did playing in the big bands affect your ideas vis-a-vis combos?
ROY: When I joined Luis Russell, I didn’t realize that I had changed the sound of the band. Nobody told me. But they told my brother. That’s when I realized. I said wow. I didn’t realize I was that hip. But I guess my concept that I was hearing and had in mind was there. But the big band, I did two years. That was great. But the slick thing to do now, with this new music, so-called bebop, was to play with small groups. So I wanted to leave the band and go down to 52nd Street, which is what I did anyhow.
TP: Did you set out deliberately to differentiate yourself from Max and Kenny Clarke? Did it just come out that way?
ROY: I think it would come out that way rather than deliberately try to do something else. Max Roach often told he heard something and he thought it was him! Unless he was just joking. But my notes on the cymbal were different than his. That part was different anyhow. So automatically it just happened.
TP: You mean the way you struck the cymbal was different?
ROY: The space that I would leave. How I would do it. Yeah, that was me.
TP: In this interview with Josh, he spoke about how, when he was playing with you, he noticed he was getting the sound he associates with bebop drumming, and you had your foot on the hi-hat but weren’t actually hitting the hi-hat, so you were getting the groove and the sound without actually using the techniques more commonly associated with this style of drumming. You were impressed that he caught this, and you quoted Miles Davis’ comment about “itchin’.”
ROY: See, that’s hard. Like, IT-CHY-BOOM, IT-CHY-BOOK, IT-CHY, ITCHY-BOOM, ITCHY-BOOM, ITCHY-BANG, ITCHY-BANG. ITCHY, ITCHY-ING, DING-DA-DING, DING-DA-DING. What word did Prez use now?
ROY: TITTY-BOOM, TITTY-BOOM. It’s still BOP-BA-DAH, BOP-BA-DAH, BOP-BA-DAH, ITCHY… There’s a certain thing I was doing that Miles said, “Well, Haynes is itchin’.” It was just a term. The hi-hat was not the itchin’ part of it. It was still the right hand. Everybody was playing 2 and 4 on the hi-hat. I can’t even do that if I tried. I can’t even keep that up. So now, sometimes I just take my foot off, put my foot on the side, and play it when I want to play it, dress it up periodically, rather than keep a continuous beat on the hi-hat. Which I didn’t do too much. Sometimes playing with certain people, they needed that or they wanted that. Some records I know I did that. At Rudy Van Gelder’s, he would always put a mike at the hi-hat. So that would be your highlight or something. Like Arthur Taylor… Jackie McLean said, “I wanted to take the hi-hat away from Arthur Taylor,” because it was continuously on 2 and 4.
TP: So it would sort of put a grid on the music.
TP: You didn’t do it, so it created more of a flow.
TP: When I talk to Dave Holland about you, or Pat Metheny’s quote, they say “the father of modern drumming.” That’s a generalized statement. What exactly does that mean? Well, maybe it means that you’re able to sustain the swing and the groove and play in a manner apropos to all these different situations. So maybe that predisposition of yours allowed you to be so relevant to all those situations, that you didn’t fall into those patterns.
ROY: Yeah, it could be. That’s a good way of putting it. I like it to flow. I don’t always like to… I don’t want to call the saxophone player’s name, but he’d be clapping his hands on 2 and 4. Sometimes that’s within us anyhow. I just dance around that, but that’s there. But some people want to hear that.
TP: The back…
ROY: The backbeat. Is that what you started to say? If you play with the right people… That’s one thing I liked about playing with people… Miles was hip to that, too. Gene Ammons. When I was with Luis Russell, playing the Regal Theater in Chicago, I used to walk from the Regal down the street to a place called the Club Congo. I couldn’t wait to sit in with Gene Ammons. I’m talking about 1946. He could play with a drummer. Coltrane had that thing. Prez, naturally, had it. Some people are depending on you to give them that. But I like to play with people who have that within them. Every now and then we can state it, but we just dance around it.
TP: Bird was like that, too, of course.
ROY: Well, Bird! It’s sort of a freer way.
TP: On Billy Hart’s website, there’s a long interview where he says that you and Max were listening to a lot of timbales players, that you were playing like a timbalero. Was Afro-Cuban music important? Were those drummers important to you?
ROY: I’ve mentioned that many times, especially in the last few years. Some of my solos were into that timbale-type thing. In fact, Mongo and Willie Bobo talked about that many years ago, my concept on my solos. It was there, definitely.
TP: Was that innate? Did you go to the Palladium to hear those bands…
ROY: Man, you could just walk from Birdland on Broadway to the Palladium outside and hear the drums playing. Birdland had Machito’s band there a lot, or Tito, and I was checking it out a lot. I was into that. I loved that.
TP: Would you sit in or guest with those bands?
ROY: Yes. I played at the Village Gate on Monday nights.
TP: I suppose you elaborated those rhythms and approach more specifically in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, when you had the Hip Ensemble.
ROY: Yes. I used a conga player most of the time anyhow then. I did a lot of that.
TP: But for a lot of people, I think, what you were doing in that band is a kind of bridge into using eighth rhythms and so on that entered the general vocabulary. I remember once you came up to WKCR with Graham, and we were playing Anthropology from an aircheck at Birdland, and the tempo, as Arthur Taylor liked to say, was completely supersonic. Graham asked you how you did it! So we have you doing things with Bud Powell and Bird. Playing the function with Sarah. This complex music with Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill. This incredibly intense energy music with Coltrane. At the same time, you’re playing with Stan Getz, which is another thing, and Chick Corea, which is something else, and the Hip Ensemble, where you’re bridging the dance rhythms of the ‘60s and ‘70s and transmuting it into your own thing. There are all these different flavors, but always you…
In the ‘50s, when recording quality gets better and people can really start hearing what drummers are doing on records, you’re with Sarah… What happens between in terms of your ideas between 1953 and 1959? You come off the road when you start having kids and moving to another phase. Are you thinking differently during those years about what the drummer can do?
ROY: When you say the ‘50s, it could have been… I left Sarah in ‘57 or ‘58. Sarah would take off maybe four weeks during the summer, and when she did that in ‘57, I did something with Sonny Rollins. Other than that, I didn’t do too much.
TP: The Sound of Sonny.
ROY: But I made a gig with him in between. But he fired all of us.
TP: Sonny Rollins fired you?
ROY: Yes, Sonny Rollins fired me. He fired the whole band. That’s when Pete LaRoca first came on the scene. He hired Pete LaRoca.
TP: Did he ever tell you why?
ROY: He fired the whole band, man. It was Kenny Dorham. We rehearsed with Sonny. He got a studio and he rehearsed. This was the first time he went in the Vanguard in a long time. When we got to the Vanguard, he didn’t play anything he’d rehearsed. I could analyze on it more, but I don’t want to… He fired everybody, man.
TP: But to fire YOU is different than firing some people.
ROY: Yeah, but… Heh-heh. Then we did a record after that… [“Grand Street”] Hank was supposed to make The Sound of Sonny, but something went down and Hank left, something went down with him and Percy, and Sonny Clark did it. Sensitive as Sonny is now, I don’t want to hurt his feelings. But he was uncomfortable. When he came back, he was fighting musically what was going on. He played the Jazz Gallery. It was his first gig after The Bridge. People were waiting, they didn’t have no airconditioning… He came in there, man, and… He’s a nervous wreck, and he can’t stand too much against him. He used to come to my house when I was with Lester Young. I didn’t even know he played a fuckin’ instrument! Sonny Rollins sometime when I lived on 149th Street. He’d come there with a friend of ours who wanted to be a pianist, but never was. So I knew him way back.
TP: He was probably in high school. He lived there.
ROY: I know he lived there. He was probably out of school, but I didn’t know him that long. I was playing with Prez when he came to my house.
TP: He said Monk gave him his first gig in 1947-1948 at Club Baron.
ROY: Monk was hiring on all those kind of gigs.
TP: When did you first work with Monk? Not until the Five Spot thing, or before that?
ROY: We may have played a hit someplace before that. I don’t remember where it was exactly.
TP: Let me do what a lot of people do and ask you to speak spontaneously about some of the people you played with. Let’s start with Monk.
ROY: Monk. Man, that was something special to be around. Not on the bandstand even. Just to be around this guy. It was a trip. I loved every moment of it, man. The two most original people I ever met that I can remember is Lester Young and Thelonious Monk.
TP: How so?
ROY: The way they talk. What they talk about. How they describe things. They were just original. Lester had a lyric… Oh, man. Two years with this guy. I laughed. It was enjoyable. $100 a week for two years. And they took out tax. I go ninety-something dollars. That didn’t even bother me. I enjoyed every moment. With Monk, at the Five Spot, it was $100 a week. Shit. But to go to work every night… Leroi Jones in the audience, a lot of the hippie guys, the poets and… Oh, man! They had a guy who used to make hamburgers. The Five Spot on the Bowery, that was a funky place! And we’d enjoy those hamburgers, man! It was dynamite. But man, those two guys… What can I say?
TP: How about Bud Powell?
ROY: That’s a whole different situation, with the mental thing. But there was a period… He lived on St. Nicholas Avenue and 141st Street. He even went off with the big band around that period. We would walk to his house, and he would put on the latest record that he had just recorded (it wasn’t out at the time) with Max and… He also would play his latest compositions. He’d like play a concert for us. That was a great period, too. I’d go over with this same guy who used to go over, named Leonard Montanez, Charlie LoSista… His father was a big man in Harlem. You know, up on Sugar Hill, most of the younger guys, their fathers either were great musicians or something big. We had a lot of that on Sugar Hill. That’s where Sonny Rollins and Arthur Taylor, Kenny Drew, and those guys were from. Most of those guys were younger than me.
TP: You were already established.
ROY: Yes. That was a helluva period. A lot of those guys, we’d just go over to Bud’s house, and he would perform. He’d be in his bathrobe, and just like a genius… I’ve said this in many articles. I’d go over to his house, ring the bell, and knock on the door. He’d look at me and say, “Close the door. We don’t want no geniuses in here.” Then he’d open the door back and say, “Come on in, mother…”
TP: But you’re the drummer on a couple of his best records… By the way, have you ever heard these March 1953 broadcasts from Birdland? The tempos you’re playing are…it’s like a magic carpet, so fast but so smooth… Did you practice those tempos or did they just happen?
ROY: Good question. I’ve been saying for the last 10-15 years, I’m like a doctor on the gig. I’m practicing then. That’s my feeling.
TP: So even back then, it was a total gig thing… You told Joshua that you weren’t a rudimental drummer at all.
ROY: That’s coming up a lot, man. We did this drum roundtable thing a few weeks ago for a German magazine and Modern Drummer, and that came up. I may have brought it up, the rudiments shit.
TP: Well, you said Herbie Wright taught you Mamma-Daddy and the roll…
ROY: That’s the first time I ever heard Mamma-Daddy. I never even got that shit good. That’s the first time I heard the term.
TP: Art Blakey had the story that he played for Chick Webb, and Chick Webb cursed him out because his rolls were sad, and told him to practice, and hence he developed his press roll. Perhaps some embellishment, but a little truth to it, too.
ROY: Ha-ha! Knowing Art Blakey. I still never got into the rudiments. But if I did, I probably would just sound like everybody else—maybe. Know what I mean? So to keep some interest… I did a thing they call Drum Festival in Montreal. A lot of fuckin’ drummers there. Now, if I played rudiments and all that shit, they’re hip to that shit. So I come up with the Roy Haynes shit, man, and it blew all of their minds, man.
TP: You also told me that you’re sort of tap dancing when you play drums, that’s what you’re visualizing.
ROY: Well, some of the stuff. I get into that period. I can shift gears. I can go into another gear. Sometimes I’ve got to go into a gear where people are not aware that I can go into it.
TP: What sort of gear might that be?
ROY: Well, the latest one. “Hippidy Hop.”
TP: I was just listening to that this morning?
ROY: [GETS UP] I got to get up for that one! They played it at the Roundtable thing. That’s what they closed with. Man, that shit… They had me fuckin’ screaming. I’m not a guy who practices, so I can’t say I practiced that. Sometimes I come min, and if I feel it… Man, I listened to that shit. Hippidy-fuckin’-hop. And there’s two segments. I don’t know which segments they played at the drum thing. I said, “Man, I’m going to learn that shit.” But I’ll never probably be able to play it again. THAT shit…
TP: You have another solo piece, Shades of Senegal
ROY: Oh, yeah, I used to do Shades of Senegali. I recorded that a few times.
TP: But those solo drums things, is it just a completely spontaneous thing?
ROY: Hippidy Hop, yeah, that’s a feeling I had at that moment, that time. Plus, something to make me feel good about it, they nominated it for a fuckin’ Grammy, man! Somebody’s checkin’… To get into that… There’s really no theme… Shades of Senegal has a melodic theme. This was just some school…
TP: You used to have that Snap-Crackle tune, that you recorded on Out of the Afternoon and on a direct to disk thing with Flanagan.
ROY: Tommy says “Roy Haynes” on both of those, though.
TP: What’s your attitude to drum solos? Were you soloing a lot in the ‘40s and ‘50s?
ROY: Well, with Luis Russell I had a spot where I would do a drum feature.
TP: Would it be spontaneous?
ROY: Well, I probably would have a theme in mind then.
TP: Was it very different than what what you did on Snap Crackle 18 years later.
ROY: Snap Crackle doesn’t have a lot of drumming on it. It’s a minor blues, 12 bar.
TP: Were you doing things with that sort of touch and attack, that kind of crisp thing, with Luis Russell…
TP: Were you tuning your drums differently then?
ROY: I probably was. With Luis Russell I had Slingerland drums. It was a whole different thing, a whole different period. I went with Ludwig when I was with Lester Young.
TP: How were they different?
ROY: I was much younger, in my twenties. I don’t know if I spent a lot of time tuning the drums, even though I had certain things in my head and my mind, how I wanted them to sound. In fact, somebody gave me a record, in London I think…or I bought a record I was on with Luis Russell’s band. I had it on a CD. Moving, I lost a lot of things; I know it’s in here someplace. My grandson and I listened to it. I played probably a 4-bar break in there. I said, “Wow.” Go back to the memories of that period and that time, that approach. I probably was still more into Art Blakey. At least that’s the feeling I got from it.
TP: Did Art have a stylistic influence on you early on?
ROY: Yeah, he had an influence, but not that much. The big band, the way he would build into a phrase or something; some rhythm things, the way he would build, go into it. I got a lot of that from listening to him. We were very close. I used to hang out with him all the time. When he was with the big band, they used to play up in Harlem with Billy Eckstine’s band, I’d go hang out with him for the rest of the night.
TP: That was the master of the hang.
ROY: Oh, man. The last few times I saw him, I had to sneak away from him. When he was talking to a lady, that’s when I’d sneak away.
TP: You spoke to me once about how the dimensions of your drumkit were different. The bass drum was bigger, and so on…
ROY: They didn’t even make small ones. I had a 26″ bass drum, I think, when I was with Luis Russell. I think it was a 26″. That was supposedly small compared to a 28″. Coming up, 28″ was the fashionable thing with the old-timers. I was a younger guy then. So when I got a 26″… I went from a 26″ to a… I got one of the first 20s when I was with Lester Young, I think.
TP: So the size of the drumkit got smaller and more streamlined, in some ways?
ROY: Well, it got smaller, because I didn’t have no automobile when I was with Lester Young, so I was on the subway sometimes going downtown with just a snare drum and a bass drum, with your traps and the rest of that stuff.
TP: You’d be carrying all your stuff.
ROY: Or taxi. You could get a taxi. But sometimes you’d play those gigs, man, all the girls were gone by the time you’d take your drums. I didn’t have a roadie. With the big band I had a roadie, but when I was with Prez, I had to take them down most of the time myself.
TP: But by 1960, for instance, when you’re making Far Cry with Eric Dolphy or with Coltrane, did the dimensions of the drums, the technology of the drums have anything to do with your approach or the flow you were projecting?
ROY: Well, I started tuning the drums a lot. Don’t ask me what notes I was tuning them to. I would search for different melodic sounds, notes that I thought would fit what I was trying to do in the music that we were playing during that period. 18″ bass drums started getting popular during that period. In fact, I had a small sports car, and I put a certain rim on there so it would fit into the trunk on some of those Firebirds I had.
TP: So it was purely functional.
ROY: Yeah. The hoops on a bass drum, most of them are wooden, and they’re a couple of inches. I said that in order to save about an inch, I would get a metal hoop which is maybe an inch, so I would save another inch, and that would fit in my car good. Drummers like Tony Williams would come up and say, “Roy, why do you have that metal hoop on the bass drum?” I said, “It’s only because it fits in my car.” People thought it probably had something to do with the sound, but I was looking for it to fit in my car.
TP: That makes me want to talk about you as an influence. Elvin Jones was into you. He checked you out microscopically, I’d imagine. There’s a story that he’d meet you at the train station in Detroit?
ROY: He took me to the train station. Yeah, he checked me out, of course. He said that himself.
TP: Tony Williams definitely did, and was explicit about it…
ROY: In fact, Miles asked me that once. He said, “Did Tony say anything about you?” I always wondered why Miles asked me that. He would come by my gigs when I would go to Boston, very early, and sit there, of course. One day I asked him to sit in, and he did a roll. I was impressed right away.
TP: Sam Rivers told me that Tony could play one tune exactly in the style of Art Blakey, another tune in the style of Max Roach, another like Philly Joe Jones, another in your style… He’d taken everyone apart and put together his own conclusions. But in the early ‘60s, were you checking out Elvin with Coltrane, Tony with Miles?
ROY: When you say “checking them out,” what do you mean?
TP: Checking out their styles.
ROY: I never bought any… Well, I bought Coltrane records. I never bought records to listen to the drummer later on. Maybe when I was very young, I did that. But I would check them out in person as much as I could, of course.
TP: Did you pick up vocabulary ever from drummers who were influenced by you…
ROY: When you say vocabulary, you mean stuff to play.
TP: Stuff to play on the drums.
ROY: Maybe subconsciously. Intentionally, I can’t think of any incident. But subconsciously, the mind… The mind is something, man. Years ago, I was listening to Max, and he played something, and I said to myself, “I thought of that same thing, too. To myself. I didn’t say it to anybody. But I’m thinking, “Man, I could have thought of that same shit.” But lots of time, you hear somebody do something in a band, and sometimes it gets a little confused in there, and confusing to the next guy, especially a younger guy coming after you who will hear somebody do something that they got from somebody else—someone else was doing it a long time ago, but they heard this person do it, and they think that’s where it originates. A lot of people are quiet about that. Once in a magazine I talked about how drummers would come up to me and tell me that they were influenced by… I’d hear that a lot of times, guys who come up and say that. But then when I read their favorite drummers, I would see some other names. I’ve said that in a magazine. One guy, he didn’t know who it was… I was talking mainly about Joe Morello. But I got a call from a guy in Boston who grew up in my neighborhood, Alan Dawson. Alan thought it was him. I wasn’t talking about him. He told me he thought it was… That’s kind of weird. A lot of people aren’t hip to what Alan… Alan was listening to a lot of stuff that Roy Haynes was doing, but he did it another way. He was more rudimental-sounding.
TP: Well, he did all those Prestige dates that Don Schlitten produced.
ROY: Right, he was like a house drummer at Prestige for a minute. But I’m talking about when we were teenagers. Even when I was at a camp that we went to, I had a little wooden drum that I had someone send down to the camp. When it was sent down, he was the first one to check it out. That’s before I had a set of drums, so he probably didn’t have a set of drums at that time.
TP: When did you get your first set of drums?
ROY: I bought them piece by piece. There was a store in Boston on Huntington Avenue called Rayburn’s. I think there’s still a Rayburn’s up there. They would have cracked cymbals on sale, new cymbals from the factory with a crack. I didn’t have no money, man. I would buy a little cymbal here, a little… When I had my first gigs, I didn’t even have a hi-hat. There was a trumpet player who used to say to me, “When are you going to get a hi-hat, motherfucker?” In other words, I had to play the ride cymbal like a hi-hat. I was showing that to a drummer. I went over to Birdland when there was a Dixieland band there, and I saw the drummer playing, and I said, “Motherfucker, you reminded me of when I was a kid.” But he had a hi-hat. I can show you how I used to play it maybe before you go.
TP: Maybe that has something to do…
ROY: I didn’t have a hi-hat. In other words, I had to use the left hand with a stick in it to say TCHIK-TE-SHHH… Open it up with the thumb. So when I had to make a break, I either had to make a break with one hand or take the hand off the cymbal and make a break and then go back to it. I didn’t have…The trumpet player used to say, “Man, when are you going to get a fuckin’ hi-hat?” I was making $12 a week at that gig.
TP: How much did cymbals cost in the ‘30s?
ROY: I don’t even remember. Probably $20-$30. So on my first gigs, I didn’t even have a complete set of drums. Then I bought one piece… That piece went to that same summer camp… Oh, that’s where I bought my bass drum. The same summer camp that I used to go to as a kid, and the money I made there, I bought a bass drum. There was a war on, and I wanted it to be pearl, but all they were selling was wooden shit then, on account of the war. I took some imitation leather and covered the heads and everything to try to make it look slick! That same drum was on my first gig when I played with Frankie Newton in Boston at the Ken Club. That’s where I met George Wein, too. Warrington and Fremont Street, a downstairs joint. Cozy Cole came in one night, when he was playing with Cab Calloway, and I had him sit in. Somebody took a photo. I have my initials on the bass drum as big as you could see! That same little wooden bass drum, the snare drum that someone gave me somewhere—probably stole it or some shit.
TP: Let me jump in time. When did you first meet Coltrane?
ROY: It was probably was when I was with Bird, of course. I don’t really remember. He was no big name. All those guys would come to the club. Jimmy Heath, all them guys in Philly. He was among all of those guys, so he wasn’t outstanding that I would remember him. But I remember seeing him. He used to drink a lot during that period. In fact, at one period we were kind of messing with the same girl. I talked about that, too. I probably met him in the late ‘40s-early ‘50s, when I was with Bird.
TP: when did you start to notice him as a musician?
ROY: I started to notice him when he was with Miles.
TP: When you did those records, you were up on what he was doing, I guess. Were you up on the developments of the late ‘50s, Coltrane’s evolution and Ornette, and were you interested?
ROY: Ornette came to the Five Spot while I was there. I was still around. In fact, we had jammed way early, at the Five Spot. I think only one set that I can remember during that same period.
TP: What did it seem like to you in 1959?
ROY: I could still hear Bird. He had that plastic horn. I’d been with Bird when he had the plastic horn, so right away I knew that he was into Bird, regardless of whether he’d admit or not, and in some of the lines of his tunes I heard a little Bird anyhow. Abstracted. I dug it. I dug his audiences. His audiences were so sincere, I could go down there, yeah.
TP: So it hit you.
TP: When you heard him or Eric Dolphy…
ROY: Well, I knew Eric before Eric played like that. I knew Eric when he was playing all Bird licks. We knew each other a long before we recorded.
TP: You said he used to come to your house.
ROY: He used to come to my house, and when he was in California I couldn’t get rid of the guy. When I was in my last days with Sarah, or on a big show playing with Bud Powell, Eric was always there. He’d hang out with me… We were close until he died.
TP: But it sounds like the situations you were placed in during the ‘60s with Dolphy and with Coltrane, were very intellectually stimulating for you.
ROY: That was a very stimulating period. For me, I was more excited about Coltrane than Eric. Eric was a young guy who was searching. Coltrane was searching, too, but he was searching DIFFERENT. I didn’t rate Eric with Coltrane. Maybe some people did.
TP: Well, Coltrane was only a year younger than you.
ROY: I know. But he was a late bloomer. Know what I mean?
TP: And you were not a late bloomer!
ROY: Well, a lot of people were not hip to me because I didn’t… Mine was laid back for a long time. Maybe that’s why I’m so anxious to play. People would describe Roy Haynes, like maybe Billy Taylor would say, “A musician’s drummer” or “a drummer’s drummer.” A lot of drummers all over the world were always hip to Roy Haynes. I know guys who’d come on the boat from England…traveled on the boat and came to New York to buy some Roy Haynes drumsticks. Ludwig made a Roy Haynes drumstick even before Slingerland. So I had all that stuff a long time ago. But now what is so great, like, the world can learn more about me, and that’s been happening in my travels. Ladies in the audience sometimes say to me “I never heard a drum solo like that” or all those type of things. I love it, man. That’s very inspiring to me.
TP: Let’s talk about some of the Baby Boom musicians you… I gather you met Chick Corea with Stan Getz and got involved with his projects later.
ROY: I met him before Stan Getz. I knew his father played an instrument, too. His father knew me when I was the youngster around Boston.
TP: The record Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was very influential on a lot of pianists. As for that matter, is Reaching Fourth…
ROY: That’s a quiet one. A lot of people aren’t hip to that.
TP: Both are core records for any pianist under 50.
ROY: Only a few people are hip to the one with McCoy.
TP: Well, all the pianists know it. Let me put the question another way. When you were doing these things in the ‘60s… I don’t know how much you would have been gigging with Chick. But was there a sense that you were doing something new? I’d imagine that back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, there had to be the sense that you were in the artistic vanguard. Was there also that sense in the ‘60s through your associations, and was that important to you?
ROY: That was important in a lot of ways. Not only the music, but the scene. You could just feel everything changing. And to be around and feel it… The audiences were different. That’s when people started wearing their hair long. Everything!
TP: You said you couldn’t wait to get out of the suit.
ROY: I was so goddamn glad, man, to get out of it, to have a tie on…
TP: Those Andover Clothing stores…
ROY: I was wearing the slickest shit out, and custom. Me and Miles… George Frazier and I went to the same tailor, the Andover Shop, in Cambridge, Mass.
TP: You and Miles got out of those suits with a vengeance.
ROY: Oh, Miles! Well, in the ‘60s he couldn’t wait, man! All that crazy shit. I mentioned Carnaby Street in London. I used to go there and buy shit. I’ve still got shit probably in boxes downstairs that are from Carnaby Street. It don’t fit me now. I got some boots some Carnaby Street. But yeah, it kind of felt like there was some different stuff happening.
TP: Is it still important to you, that notion of having what you do be…
ROY: Well, when you talk about those two records, it has to be something that’s important. It’s all over the world, man. All over the world people are talking about that still.
TP: The one with Chick, Now He Sings…
ROY: Yeah, that one, man… There’s not a week that someone in the audience doesn’t bring that up.
TP: It’s a universal landmark for jazz piano players.
ROY: Yeah. But there are a lot of people who didn’t play piano. Well, Herbie Hancock, that was the first time he heard me playing like that. He just complimented me to death.
TP: What musicians always mention is the openness of your mind, to be able to place yourself in all these contexts in a very free-thinking way. I know you rarely play as a sideman any more, but you did through the mid ‘90s… Except with Chick, I guess.
ROY: That’s one of the things that sort of brought me out when I stopped playing with a lot of other people, though, and playing with certain people. Because there are a lot of things that I had in my mind before to do, but I didn’t do it. Some people say, “You changed” or… I don’t agree with that 100%. There may be a different approach to something, but I had all of these things in mind a long time ago, even though I didn’t know where they would fit. So that’s why, doing my own thing, I do what I want to do. Sometimes I may feel over-anxious and overdue, but I know what should be done and how to do it.
Sometimes I take chances. One time I told a guy who was interviewing me, “I’m a gambler.” He didn’t know what I was talking about.” He thought I meant I wanted to go to Las Vegas and gamble.But I’ll go overboard. You talk about playing free or something. That’s part of the beginning of playing free, not playing the hi-hat on 2 and 4 and letting that stuff be loose. You don’t have to play anything in 7/8 or 6/8. It’s all there anyhow. You divide it up and you try to surround yourself with people who are going to understand that, and we take it to the moon, man. We can play the same song all night and make something different happen within it, and you won’t know where we are. When you get that kind of understanding on the bandstand, man, you can lift that. That’s one of the things that Coltrane had. Sometimes I get it with my young groups, and I work on it, and man, it’s the greatest feeling. You talk about eating some good food or having some good sex! It tops all of that.
TP: It’s up there.
ROY: It’s up there, when that happens. And when the whole house feels that, and… What’s happening on the bandstand, we’re giving it to each other, and as a group we give it to the audience. The audience gets it and gives it back to us. Man, you can’t beat that.
TP: A lot of things that people are hearing from you since about 1990, when we start to hear about one record every 18 months or two years… You were thinking about those ideas farther back than when you started playing. Did a lot of those ideas, though, develop when you had the Hip Ensemble? That’s the band that people know less about now (probably because the records are out of print) than some of your other things. Can you discuss that experience a bit. When I was younger, I’d listen to WRVR and Ed Beach, “Roy Haynes and the Hip Ensemble,” and it just seemed very, very hip…
ROY: Those were some wild days. Wild days. Oh, man, the first band with George Adams and Hannibal, I think the first recording we did was entitled Hip Ensemble. I think some of those are going to come out in this box set that they’re talking about. A lot of stuff is going to be licensed. That’s the big talk these days. There’s some stuff I did with Ray Charles, a big band that I expect to be in there.
TP: So let’s talk about those years, since it’s pertinent. Those years obviously were a bridge to what you did later, forming the bands with Ralph Moore and David Kikoski…. What sorts of ideas were you thinking about in the ‘70s? Bringing out contemporary dance rhythms…
ROY: It was some of that. At some points, I recorded with the electric piano, the fender Rhodes… We would travel with the fender Rhodes. The first guy was Carl Schroeder, and I had a guy who went with Miles—Cedric Lawson. He was a very talented guy. A little poco loco. A lot of the guys were poco loco in those bands. That was a very wild period. We couldn’t do… Everything had to be…
TP: You mean drugs.
ROY: Oh, yeah, man. The first gig with the Hip Ensemble was at a place in New York called The Scene on the West Side. This was an Acid Rock joint. How I got the gig in there, I had to accompany this singer who was singing Beatles songs. I forget his name. Jimi Hendrix came to see us there. He didn’t play. He came up on the stage with us. All of those guys were hanging around the scene. But opening night… I rehearsed at Chick Corea’s house. Chick was living in Queens then; maybe I didn’t have a piano or something at that time. He came down to the club opening night, and he heard the Hip Ensemble. This was before he started Return to Forever, if I started correctly. He said, “Roy Haynes, you really can form a band.” He took that out early. We stayed there for two weeks. A lot of people don’t know… Acid Rock. We played some Funk, too. I think I needed some drumsticks, and there always was another band there, and I was using the other drummer’s drumsticks. Man, I said, “Oh, this is a secret; you can really play slick with these big baseball bat drumsticks. I’m playing loud, I’ve got an electric… We had a regular piano in there, but we had an electric bass. My bass player at the time was… We had a couple of different guys.
TP: Did you use a bigger kit?
ROY: I must have had an 18″ bass drum. Oh, I had a lot of drums then, I think; I had a lot of melodic drums, yes.
TP: Is this before Billy Cobham started bringing out all those drums? Do you think those guys were checking out the Hip Ensemble?
ROY: You named one. He was, man. Billy Cobham. In fact, he’d come to my house to get something. Chick came to get a cymbal, the flat ride that he used when he started Return to Forever, that all the drummers had to play when he played acoustic piano. I don’t know if you’re aware of that.
TP: No, I wasn’t.
ROY: Well, that was the case.
TP: Were you incorporating new rhythms, experimenting with new rhythms?
ROY: Experimenting, of course. Definitely.
TP: What sort of new rhythms.
ROY: I was doing a lot of stuff in 7/8. I had a group before the Hip Ensemble at Slugs with Wayne Shorter. I had Cecil McBee and the pianist was…he died. Wayne talks about it in his book. That was still in the ‘60s, and a lot of crazy stuff was happening. They had sawdust on the floor at Slugs.
TP: Do you think a lot of the things you were experimenting with in the Hip Ensemble in the ‘70s then became part of the Roy Haynes style that we hear in the last twenty years?
ROY: Maybe some of it. None that I can think of offhand.
TP: The attack. Playing harder…
ROY: If I want to turn it up a bit, yeah. In that period, it was fashionable to put your cymbals high in the air and all that stuff. I got ‘em down, where I can talk to them a little more.
TP: It’s fair to say that the Hip Ensemble had a lot to do with bridging you…
ROY: The Hip Ensemble had something to do with it. I don’t know if it was a lot. Maybe. Things like that I don’t really…
TP: Of course. But if you have any ideas.
ROY: Well, the Hip Ensemble was very important.
TP: Why was it important?
ROY: Well, for those reasons. Sometimes I don’t know why or how it was important. But it was. It was important. We were doing that stuff before it really was that popular! I did something maybe a little after the Hip Ensemble that was being played on rock stations only—Thank You, Thank You. George Cables was on it.
TP: Everyone knows that in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the jazz market had declined a lot. How much of your doing that had to do with just needing the work, and how much had to do with your actual interest?
ROY: I don’t think I did it to get jobs. Maybe I did, and didn’t realize it. Because I could get gigs. I was known for getting gigs. Whether it was the Hip Ensemble… Maybe I felt that that’s the direction I want to go at the time. I want to express that feeling. Sometimes I don’t know why I do things. But I know every now and then that word comes up, the Hip Ensemble, and somebody says it with some feeling, so I think there must have been something to it.
TP: Well, it was the greatest name for a group. I mean, it’s the HIP Ensemble.
ROY: [LAUGHS] One time a guy wrote about it, when the record first came out. He started out saying, “Being hip was always one of Roy Haynes’ problems.” He probably meant it as a compliment—I hope!”
TP: Do you feel that doing dates like Question and Answer helped bring your name out… In other words, that advocacy of you by younger musicians…
ROY: Well, we did Question and Answer with Pat Metheny anyhow. That was the title of a CD. I heard something many years ago. I used to play a place in New Jersey called Gulliver’s. It was during the period before they started charging per show. It might have been after the Hip Ensemble; the Hip Ensemble wasn’t working in there. I was getting younger audiences, so they weren’t drinking a lot. They were going outside between shows and doing whatever they wanted to do. They weren’t drinking. And late at night, a lot of the “boys,” so to speak, as they were called, would come in and they wouldn’t have no place to sit because all these young people were staying and not drinking. I took that as a compliment. I’m getting these younger audiences. I had to use it. I kept doing certain things, and people started mentioning it. “Roy, I noticed something; you’ve really drawn a young audience.” And it’s grown. If I play Question and Answer now, somebody can relate to that in the audience, regardless of whether they know the name of the tune or if they realize it’s a Pat Metheny tune. Some do and some don’t. Also, I get some older people who remember me and want to check me out. So it’s an interesting mix when you come to some of my performances, to see the people. So I can’t answer that, but maybe that’s why.
TP: Well, that’s a good answer. This brings me to another point, which is the way you set up sets and the repertoire you use, which touches on all of your associations, and brings them into real time, as it were.
ROY: There you go.
TP: Something from Prez, something from Bird, something from Monk, something from Sarah, something from Getz, something from Chick, something from Metheny, something from Coltrane, something from Oliver Nelson.
ROY: Then I’ll hook up and play Hippity Hop.
TP: Or things like Praise. But how did you evolve that strategy, as it were? Was it a strategy?
ROY: I think you could use the term “strategy.” It’s what I’m feeling. I had a lady in Chicago once, who wasn’t particularly young… I don’t know her age. But I was standing in the lobby as the people were coming out, and she stopped and told me how she enjoyed the music and how it reminded her of the four seasons. I took it as a compliment. Not the group the Four Seasons… The spring, summer, fall, winter.
TP: You took her on a trip.
ROY: Yeah, evidently. So that’s kind of hip. You say, “Wow, she’s getting all this…” She happened to be an actress. That’s what she got from it. You know what she said then? She said, “How are you going to the airport?” I was leaving the next day. She said, “I’ll send a limousine for you.” Now I can’t get rid of her. She shows up, sends limousines… Something is working.
TP: WBGO is on. Do you keep your ears open to what a lot of the younger drummers are doing?
ROY: I always listen. There are so many damn drummers! There’s a lot of drummers out there. A lot of musicians. But there are a lot of drummers. I mean, more than ever. Every other month I’m hearing about some new guy, and I’m checking him out on a record, and I’m liking them. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference, who’s who. A lot of them sound alike. In the old days, we could usually hear somebody and tell who it is. One thing I read about myself recently, in a couple of bars…
[PAUSE: BATHROOM BREAK]
TP: You were talking about a couple of things. Younger drummers, they’re good, you can’t always tell them apart…
ROY: Well, I don’t really want to say that. It’s kind of hard for them now, anyhow, to… They’ve got everything to listen to. Everybody. They can listen to all the old shit, and they can see whoever is left.
TP: They can also hear all the rhythms from other parts of the world. All that stuff is quite accessible.
ROY: Yeah. And they’ve got schools, and some of the teachers are players. That wasn’t when I came up. I had a guy, Karl Ludwig, at Boston Conservatory for a little while. All he could say was [SINGS ROLL] BRRPPP, BRRPPP. He was a German guy. I had him for a short while.
TP: You learned to read music and so on…
ROY: Well, I was familiar with a lot of the writers, the guys who wrote the music. That was the thing. When you’re a natural drummer, if you didn’t read that good, which I couldn’t anyhow… Now I can’t… I could read better years ago.
TP: Your eyesight.
ROY: I’ve got these goddamn spy glasses. But I don’t want to read shit. Somebody can hire me for what I do…
TP: For your sound.
ROY: And for my imagination as well. They have to be a writer that’s into me. That’s why Chick and I were so cool, and even Pat.
ROY: Because they’re into what I’m trying to do. I’m not a guy for hire. I know I’m an individual, and my concept is what it is. That’s the way I feel. I’m not a guy on call, that you can call to do this project. No-no. Never was. But worse now. You’d be surprised… Some years ago, a singer would call me up and tell me she’s a singer and wanted me to record with her. I said, “Look, I played with Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Leave me the fuck alone.” Not like that, but almost. That’s not nice to say. They act like they’re doing me a favor. When I was with Sarah Vaughan, man, I was buying a house then. My first house, boom. It’s different now. I don’t want to do that shit now. I did it. Diddit and diddit and diddit. Ever hear that joke? Chick Corea was the first one to tell me the joke. He said, “Max Roach did it, Art Blakey did it, Philly Joe did it, but Roy Haynes did it and did it and did it and did it.” [STOMPS THE TIME] DIDDIT-AND-DIDDIT-AND-DIDDIT-AND-DIDDIT. That’s Roy Haynes’ shit.
TP: So with your band, you’re referring back to the 60 years of experience every night, really, every set, because you’re playing this material…
ROY: Sometimes there’s something left out, and it may come to me on the last day, or never come to me during that gig if it’s a weekend or week or whatever. Periodically, something will come to me that I may associate with Louis Armstrong when I played with the big band for a week. I may think of something related to that.
TP: Or Nat Cole, you played with.
TP: but more or less, within your set, that’s your orientation. It covers your whole…
TP: How do you work out arrangements in the band? Who does them…
ROY: I usually do. I usually rearrange, or change, or add something to them. We’ve got one of Chick’s that we do that, I do it a different way… Bud Powell. There are certain little riffs that I handle different than the way he wrote it.
TP: Another one you do a lot is Green Chimneys.
ROY: I haven’t been doing that too much. A lot of other people have recorded it.
TP: It’s on the 2002 record, but Bemsha Swing is on the new record.
ROY: Yes. See, the new record was not really a record date. It’s not recorded good or anything. A friend of mine is a drummer; he has this place in St. Paul, and he had arranged with the Mayor to have the Roy Haynes weekend. That’s paying off for him. His place has a nice size. And he got the Roy Haynes snare drum and that whole thing.
TP: Also the group Birds of a Feather is like that.
ROY: That was mostly Bird, though.
TP: The point being that you’re always referring to the foundation of your career and your aesthetics. But most people who are 60 and 70 and 80 look at those times…
ROY: As past tense?
TP: Or from a certain point, they stop evolving their perspective. Even Max in a lot of ways. It seems like you’re in both places at once. You’re back then…
ROY: But still now?
TP: Yes, still now. That’s a hard trick for people. Miles dealt with it by cutting it off in a lot of ways.
ROY: He cut it off in a slick way. But he still… When he was playing in the mute, he was still playing regular Miles, but he was surrounded by the other shit. He’s playing Miles. That’s where he tricked motherfuckers. He’s dressed like his audience, so to speak — dressed better than them, of course. But he’s playing the same shit. That’s packaging.
TP: But you’re not playing the same shit.
ROY: Well, no. But sometimes I’m still playing a little TITTY-BOOM. It’s the way I’m playing TITTY-BOOM, though. I’m still playing that, DING-DA-DING, DING-DA-DING on some of the stuff, but not everything. It varies. The song says [SINGS] “nothing stays the same…”
TP: Are you playing 9/4, 7/4, odd meters?
ROY: Like I tried to explain earlier, all that is within what I’m playing anyhow. I don’t particularly analyze it as such. It’s in my body. It’s in my walk. It’s in my strut. So it comes out. It doesn’t come out evenly number-wise. No, I don’t play like that. I’m not a metronome. I don’t think like that.
TP: That puts you right in with what people are doing now. It’s the age of people doing songo, the 7/4, and people doing 5 real slick…
ROY: You don’t breathe the same way. So if I’m going to play it some way that everything has to be metered down to the numbers… [1:43:43] That’s not me. Then I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I wouldn’t be able to keep it up anyhow. Because my mind would start wandering, and I’d be in another meter somewhere else. So that’s the way I play. Just because it may seem fashionable… Although a lot of the youngsters can really do that now, because they’re learning that in the schools. Like I said, we didn’t have those schools earlier. I wouldn’t want to do it like that anyhow. I breathe the way I breathe and sneeze the way I sneeze. I think there can be a poem there!
When I get behind the set, sometimes I don’t know… I’m reminding myself of Adderley. Cannonball. “I don’t know!” I don’t know what direction I’m going to go when I go on stage, and I start… It’s like somebody painting an abstract picture, an abstract painting, and as they go, they add things and they leave certain things out. What I try to do now with the music, I let it stroll. I get out of their way. Sometimes I just get up. That’s part of my thing now. I get up more than I used to, and let them just go, and let it breathe. For the listener, that’s interesting, too. They’re hearing it come in at a certain point.
TP: That painting notion, do you see… A lot of musicians see rhythms or sounds as colors. Do you?
ROY: Oh, yes. One guy, Morgan Harris, he’s not living now, who was an artist, and he’d talk about the colors when he’d come to my sets. He’d tell me, “you’re using a lot of blues there.” I’m into the earth tones.
TP: That’s how you’re dressed now. Khaki shoes, khaki pants, the pattern on the shirt is an earth-tone black-brown-gold.
ROY: Feels good, man.
* * * *
Roy Haynes on 80th Birthday for Daily News + for Jazz in Greenwich Village Article (March 1, 2005):
TP: First, you’re coming from Louisville, and you’re about to go where?
HAYNES: I did tell my audience that I was catching a plane to go back to the U.S., back to the States. They all got offended, I heard. Not all of them, but that’s the message I got. They thought I was calling them hicks, but I do that periodically. I said I was going back to the States. It was just like a humorous thing, and people from the college called my agent. That’s what I heard yesterday. The hotels were screwed up, too. So I talked about it…in a loving way. They were hurting, I heard, afterwards.
TP: You’ve always been known to speak your mind.
HAYNES: Well, I think when you’ve been on the Planet Earth awhile, what’s the sense of being fictitious?
TP: Do you travel often with this band?
HAYNES: I travel periodically, yeah. I don’t know if you’d call it often. This band, we went to Chicago three years in a row. We’ve been doing that Charlie Parker thing in August. And we’ve been to Boston. I think I went to Europe the year before last. Newport with the band one year. We’re going to Boston soon.
TP: And have you also been working a fair amount with Birds of a Feather?
HAYNES: Every now and then I do something with Birds Of A Feather. We’ve got a few things coming out. I’ve been trying to do less of it, but I guess they get calls for it. My agent loves it, naturally, because he gets a pretty good chunk of that.
TP: But it’s a helluva band. By the end of a week, it’s something to behold.
HAYNES: Well, we haven’t been doing too many weekly gigs with Birds of a Feather. We did the Blue Note, I think, with the full personnel.
TP: But Fountain of Youth is the continuation of a format that you’ve been working in for years, the quartet format. Just so I’m clear, it’s going to be Marcus Strickland, Martin Bejerano and John Sullivan. How long have they been playing with you?
HAYNES: As I just said, we’ve played in Chicago three years in a row. But we don’t go steady, because Marcus does a lot of other things with a lot of people, and Martin had been playing with Russell Malone. So there are times when I don’t see them for quite a while, and then we get back together. It works good that way. Years ago, I had a band and I kept the same personnel and tried to work steady. Now I don’t particularly try to. It just happens.
TP: You had a long time band with Dave Kikoski and Ed Howard…
HAYNES: Dave has been with me for a lot of stuff. He started with me over 15 years ago.
TP: Twenty years.
HAYNES: It could be! I don’t keep track. I don’t try to. But I was one of the first bands he started playing with.
TP: You’ve been working in that format for over forty years. Different drummers who’ve led bands have tried to present themselves in different ways. Max Roach was trying to do a certain thing, Art Blakey… What qualities are you trying to bring out in the bands you lead.
HAYNES: Well, naturally, top quality. But I’m not always looking for one certain thing. Well, when you use four instead of using five, you cut down on the expense. Also, you don’t have to really rehearse-rehearse. If you have two horns or something out there, naturally, if you want them to be tight, you’ve got to concentrate on that more, and if you can’t always get the same personnel, it’s going to be pretty involved. So with a quartet… Then, it sort of reminds me of the certain days with… Well, Bird was mostly two horns. But with Trane, the times I would fill in, it was one horn. I don’t really plan it. It just seems to happen itself. I don’t have one certain thing in mind.
TP: For instance, the way you select repertoire, are you selecting pieces to represent different aspects of your tonal personality? Is it just that a piece appeals to you?
HAYNES: It’s a combination of the whole thing. Sometimes I play certain tunes that I know the musicians enjoy playing. But after you play them for a while, you’ve got to do different things on them. I’m into the spring-summer-fall-winter… Once a lady told me… When I was playing in Chicago, after I had finished a set, this lady came over to me and said that my music reminded her of the four seasons. I thought of that as a compliment. Because I tried to express a little bit of what was happening in the different parts of the season, and in my life… I am connected with some tunes I love that maybe Bird had played or Trane had played. I like the guys to be comfortable.
TP: You also play tunes by Chick Corea. Tunes associated with Sarah.
HAYNES: There you go. A lot of people that I’ve been associated with.
TP: So is it kind of an ongoing… This is probably going to seem kind of far-fetched, but a kind of ongoing personal autobiography?
HAYNES: Ha-ha. It could be. But sometimes I stretch out and go to some people whom I haven’t even played with.
TP: Are there people you haven’t played with?
HAYNES: Well, I’m sure. Benny Carter used to say that to me. He used to say, “Roy, when are we going to play together?” That’ s something to come from an older great guy like that. I never worked with Ornette.
TP: There’s still time.
HAYNES: You’re damn right there’s still time. It’s on him, man! He doesn’t seem to like to work too much. I’m sure there are other people I haven’t played with.
TP: Again, remember I’m doing a piece for the Daily News as I ask these questions.
HAYNES: Really? The Daily News is hip to Ornette and Benny Carter.
TP: How do you keep your energy going? You always play at a very high level of energy, every time I’ve seen you.
HAYNES: Well, I imagine that comes from the heavens. Sometimes when I go for a long period without playing, I am like a goddamn tiger in a cage. I try not to overplay, I try to restrain myself and work up to it. But I look at every time I go to the bandstand, every time I play, it’s a very serious affair with me. And as I get older, it becomes more serious. So I just try to put my all in it.
TP: Do you think you might be playing with more energy now than forty years ago?
HAYNES: Energy is a funny word. Heh-heh. You say forty?
TP: Let’s say 45 years ago, when you left Sarah Vaughan, in 1958.
HAYNES: Well, I was with a singer. Naturally, I’m playing with more energy now. In fact, I didn’t even hear the term “playing with energy.” I think I started hearing that more with the rock business. But before… Then, by me being a leader of most of the groups I’ve been playing with, except… Okay, with Chick, we did that Remembering Bud Powell thing. There were three horns on most of that, so I think that calls for a little energy. Denzil Best used to tell me years ago, “Play like it’s the last time you’re ever going to play.” He used to say that to me in the ‘40s, way when I first came to New York. Which was 1945, by the way. I started playing around 52nd Street a little after that, but I met him even before I came to New York, in Boston.
TP: So not only is this your eightieth birthday coming up, but your sixtieth anniversary as a New Yorker.
HAYNES: Yeah, that’s interesting.
TP: Where did you live when you first came to New York?
HAYNES: I lived up on Sugar Hill. I lived at 149th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. It was a brownstone. 526 W. 149th Street.
TP: What was the neighborhood like at the time?
HAYNES: The neighborhood was beautiful. You could stand on Amsterdam Avenue looking west towards the Hudson River, seeing that sun come up in the evening, walking… I loved it. I still drive by there periodically to look at the house where I used to live.
TP: Do you remember the address?
HAYNES: 526. I loved it from day one. In fact, on that same street, there were so many musicians, older musicians that lived around there. Miles lived around the corner. Miles lived on 147th between Broadway and Amsterdam. At one point, Kansas Field, the drummer, lived there. John Simmons lived at 149th Street. I think they lived in the same building. One of the trumpet players that played with Basie lived there, not Buck or Sweets…
TP: Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean talk about the neighborhood…
HAYNES: Well, they grew up there on Sugar Hill.
TP: Coleman Hawkins lived there.
HAYNES: He lived on 153rd Street between St. Nick and Amsterdam, I think. I remember the name of the building. King Haven Apartments. I loved it up there. All those guys did, too. Jackie still talks about it. A.T. talked about it until the end.
TP: You play like someone who lives completely in the present, but I know that the past must give you a lot of sustenance, having had all those experiences.
HAYNES: That’s true, of course. There’s a lot of the past that’s naturally still in me. But I’m trying to think ahead a little bit and stay in the mix.
TP: But it seems people have always noted you for doing that. Prez didn’t have any problem with anything you did, Bird…
HAYNES: It was so beautiful to have played… I remember the first night playing with Prez, at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. I’ll never forget that. He just went along. He was into what I was trying to do.
TP: Apart from playing at the Savoy, did you ever go there to dance or for your own entertainment?
HAYNES: I was dancing on the bandstand, of course. But that’s where I joined Luis Russell, too. And joined Prez there, two years later.
TP: There are probably too many highlights in your career to ask about the highlights, but…
HAYNES: [LAUGHS] I can tell you. There’s one I remember. When I had the group, the Hip Ensemble, we were doing a Jazz Vespers. The church then was on Lexington, but it wasn’t the same one. Gensel, naturally, was there. It happened to be the anniversary of Billy Strayhorn’s death. When I had the Hip Ensemble, George Adams and Hannibal were my front line, I’d come out of a drum solo and go into “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” which we recorded for Mainstream. When we went into “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Duke Ellington happened to be in the audience, and his doctor. Dr. Logan. Dr. Logan was a very tall man. They were sitting near the back, and I noticed when I went into it in 3/4 time, they stood up, and the whole congregation stood up. That was known as the Negro National Anthem back in the day. That was one of the highlights that I always remember. Naturally, there were many more. But that’s one that stands out in my mind.
TP: What does New York mean to you?
HAYNES: Oh, man! New York means a lot of things to me! Just to come to New York was like going to heaven. In fact, there were people up in Harlem who used to say, “I wouldn’t leave Harlem to go to heaven.” Harlem is part of New York. [Yahwk.] But New York is my home, even though I was born in Boston.
TP: How long did you stay in Harlem?
HAYNES: I stayed in that house five years. Then I went back to Clarement Avenue, near where Juilliard is now. In fact, I was a few doors from Juilliard. I stayed there for a couple of years. Then I went to Boston for the winter and came back. I think at that point I stayed in hotels. I bought some property in Queens. Now I live in Nassau County, but I still have property in Queens where my children hang. Really why I got out of Manhattan (I still love Manhattan) I started owning automobiles, and the garage bills and starting to get tickets… I knew I had to get a house with a garage.
TP: What was your favorite car over the years?
HAYNES: I think the one I’ve had the longest is that Bricklin, with the gull-wing doors. It’s been on the news and TV. I’ve had it on tours. I had it in quite a few car shows back in the days. I still have it.
TP: How many cars do you have?
HAYNES: I have four.
TP: Are they all fast cars?
HAYNES: They’re all fast. I’ve got one of those Magnums. It’s fast as hell. I had one Eldorado in Vegas. I have a place in Vegas. And I have a Benz; one of the coupes.
TP: You were also an Esquire Best-Dressed Man, weren’t you?
HAYNES: Yes. The article was written in the ‘50s, but it was used, I think, in 1960. It was titled “The Art Of Wearing Clothes” by a writer named George Frazier. They had forty American men, along with people like Fred Astaire, Walter Pidgeon, and Miles Davis, Roy Haynes. We were the youngest, Miles and myself, and the only musicians and the only blacks who were in it!
TP: What sort of threads were you wearing in the ‘50s? Miles was wearing the Italian suits…
HAYNES: He started the Italian suits I think a little later than the ‘50s…I’m thinking.
TP: How about you?
HAYNES: Well, let’s see. Actually, George Frazier and I had the same tailor, which was the Andover Shop in Cambridge, Mass, and Andover, Mass. Yeah, Miles and I used to talk a lot about clothes. In fact, during that period, there were a lot of guys our age that we were talking about a lot of clothes all the time.
TP: What are some of the biggest changes you see, if any, between young musicians today, like the guys in your band, and when you were their age, or when you were in your forties… Do the young musicians today have a different mindset from those of your day?
HAYNES: I can’t speak to their mind. But their whole world is so different. People coming up now, it’s almost automatic. But there are some serious young players out there, some very serious GOOD players. But everything is so different now. I would think a lot of the younger musicians coming up now, they really don’t have to pay dues that were paid back in the old days. The idea of traveling and making maybe $20 a night and living in hotels when there was maybe three people in a room… With big bands, I’m talking about. That whole thing as far as paying dues. It’s a whole different thing now. Guys come out of school, they’ve got their own projects, they’ve got their own bands. That didn’t happen back in that period when I was coming up. So it’s really hard to compare those times and the musicians now to the musicians then. The whole world is different.
TP: How about when you were just going out on your own as a bandleader, which started to happen in the early ‘60s, a time of social tumult and change in the music. Can you generalize about attitudes then vis-a-vis younger guys now? Then you played with Andrew Hill, Joe Henderson…
HAYNES: Some of them were lucky. Andrew Hill had a deal with Blue Note right away. I think I remember him saying that Alfred Lion was going to buy him a piano. We weren’t that lucky before that. So even that was a little different. The ‘60s was a happy period, a helluva period.
TP: A few sentences on some of the people you played with. Sarah Vaughan.
HAYNES: I had heard that record that Charlie Parker and Dizzy and Sarah… First thing, I was always into lyrics and checking out good singers. I loved that. And she was such a great musician that, BOOM…! It was hip to be with Sarah then. I didn’t realize that I would stay there for five years, but I went there and got comfortable. I started going to places I hadn’t been. I think it was the first time I went to Europe, was with Sarah. So it opened some doors.
HAYNES: [LAUGHS] I’ve got some stories. But some of them are too long. Too lengthy. I was once asked what was it like to have played with Coltrane, and I said playing with Coltrane was like a beautiful nightmare. My niece said, “Uncle Roy, how can a nightmare be beautiful?” But when you have to try to explain that to somebody… I can’t explain it. That’s what I said then.
TP: It’s a poetic image, that’s all.
HAYNES: Yeah. And it was something. The drums just seemed to go when I was there.
HAYNES: Monk. Misterioso. That’s the title of one of his tunes, and I think it’s the title of a CD of his that was made live at the Five Spot.
TP: With you.
HAYNES: Yes. Monk was cool. Monk used to say, “Roy Haynes…” He used the expression, “You’re a bitchin’ drummer.” Did you ever hear that word, “a bitchin…?” He used to use that term. But it was quite interesting to play with Monk. Playing with Monk at the Five Spot, man, there was no money made at all. But it was such a memorable occasion. I used to love to go to work. Sometimes the place would be packed, and Monk would probably come in maybe two or three hours after we had been waiting, walking past, and go right to the kitchen, and lay down on the table and go to sleep. There were some really exciting moments with Monk. The set would start, I guess, when they would get him up. But it was a kick. I loved playing with Monk.
TP: I’ll move this to the Five Spot for a minute. What was the atmosphere like in the Five Spot? Always very intense and stimulating?
HAYNES: Yes, because first of all, that’s when the word, maybe even before it started popular, beatnik… Words like that. That’s when the audiences started…the look was changing. People started wearing their hair long. That was about the period when they really started doing it. The late ‘50s going into the ‘60s. A lot of writers. Leroi Jones, as he was known at the time, he used to be around there. It was a kick to go to work every night.
TP: Both Randy Weston and somebody else told me that the place was filthy. Dirty.
HAYNES: Listen, it WAS dirty. But I’d be back there in the kitchen. They had a guy who made…
TP: Bob, making funky hamburgers.
HAYNES: We used to be back there eating them. I didn’t care about the dirt. It was dirty. But a lot of places were dirty. Well, let’s see, before… When places like Birdland opened, that wasn’t dirty particularly. And on 52nd Street, you had to be dressed up. That was a whole different thing. In those days, we wore ties… When I worked the Five Spot with Monk, we were wearing suits and ties and jackets. But sooner or late, that all stopped. I couldn’t wait to take off a tie and play drums, man! After all of those years… Because when I started out as a teenager, you had to have a tuxedo.
TP: Was the piano any good at the Five Spot when Monk was there?
HAYNES: The piano sounded out of tune, but it was fashionable for pianos to sound out of tune. They weren’t as particular as some of the pianists today. Now, guys say, “Oh, that has to be tuned right away.”
TP: Did you ever play with Monk and Coltrane?
HAYNES: Yeah. It’s on that record. But I didn’t play with them much. I think there may have been only a night or two when Coltrane was in there.
TP: What can you tell me about the experience of playing with them?
HAYNES: First of all, it was a short experience. I can’t really hardly remember. When I listened to that record, I said, “Wow, yeah! Listen to that!” But I have no particular memory, because it wasn’t lengthy. Sonny Rollins was in there, too, in the Five Spot a little bit. I played with him and Monk during one of those long… We were in there a couple of times, for 18 weeks at a time.
TP: But not with Sonny and Monk for 18 weeks…
HAYNES: Johnny Griffin was there the longest when I was there. But maybe some nights… I don’t remember if it was before Johnny started that Sonny was in there.
TP: Well, you recorded with Sonny in 1957 on The Sound Of Sonny.
HAYNES: I used to go down there and catch Monk and Trane and Shadow Wilson. That’s where I got the idea of playing the theme of Misterioso like I did, when Shadow did something similar to that during the theme.
TP: Back to these impressions of people. Bird.
HAYNES: Ha-ha. Bird. Ha-ha-ha. It was up and down. Some nights when he was really feeling good, you couldn’t beat that. It was a hell of a period and a cool thing to be on the bandstand with Bird. It’s hard to describe.
TP: Did being with Bird make you raise your game? Or was your game already right there?
HAYNES: Well, I came to New York…a bandleader had SENT for me. Luis Russell, who played with King Oliver. Luis Russell never heard me. That’s a helluva thing, a guy just turning 20 years old and being recommended by Charlie Holmes, who played with Louis Armstrong and King Oliver and those guys. He was a saxophone player. During the war, we played together in New London, Connecticut. He told Luis Russell about me. I got this special delivery, “start with Luis Russell.” In Boston, even before I joined him, if someone needed a drummer or a band came to town, it was usually me. But there were some great drummers in Boston during that period. There was a guy named Joe Booker. He could swing you to death. One time he got the call to fill in for Shadow Wilson in the Basie Band.
TP: You answered that question well.
HAYNES: Did I? I just went around the block. I just came to New York, man, and I didn’t realize it, but I had changed the sound of the band. Because the people in the band told my brother that. They didn’t tell me that. But Luis Russell believed in me, and I learned a lot. Then I started hanging around 52nd Street. During my nights off, I’d stay out all night, down on 52nd Street.
TP: Who did you first play with on 52nd Street?
HAYNES: It wasn’t Bird… I was still with Lester Young, and he went out with Jazz at the Philharmonic. That was the summer. I think I went in the Three Deuces with Kai Winding, Red Rodney, Curley Russell on bass, and George Wallington on piano.
TP: So you were in New York for four years before you had a steady gig on 52nd Street, because you were on the road so much.
HAYNES: Well, we used to play off-nights. They always had two groups. So I did that before I worked steady on 52nd Street anyhow. But that would have been the summer of 1949.
TP: You joined Bird in ‘49.
HAYNES: Yeah. I was with Miles before that. Miles used to say that Bird st0le his drummer. Those were his exact words. That’s the period when I really started working on 52nd Street.
TP: You said you didn’t play the Bohemia…
HAYNES: No, I didn’t play there steady. I don’t even remember playing there one night. But I used to go there and hang. It was a dynamite place. It had a long bar, and then the bandstand was straight ahead as you walked in. The owner, Garofalo, I remember him good. He seemed like a jolly guy. Well, from what I could see. He was well and happy and… I remember one night there, with my wife; I don’t even know if we were married at the time. We were all at the bar. I was still with Sarah then. I remember I was getting ready to open in Chicago. And Dinah Washington said, out loud, “Roy Haynes, we’re going to hang out when we get to Chicago!” My wife naturally got an attitude behind that. Dinah Washington was known for doing things like that.
TP: I just read her biography. She was very forthcoming.
HAYNES: Tell me about it, man. She loved drummers, too.
TP: Tenor players, too, I’d think, since she married one.
TP: Were you in the vicinity when Cannonball Adderley made his New York debut?
HAYNES: I’m not sure. When I was on my last gig with Sarah, we were playing the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Richard Davis was in the band. I had my notice in. That’s when I met Cannon and his brother. They took me and Richard Davis to some down-home restaurant that had a jukebox, and they put money in the jukebox and said, “I want you to hear his record.” It was Ray Charles on his early records, that still sounded good, and that was my first introduction to Ray Charles.
TP: They must have known him from Florida.
HAYNES: Well, they knew of his records. I don’t know if they knew him. Because they were two square guys.
TP: There’s the famous story of how he made his big splash in New York. He comes to town, Oscar Pettiford’s playing there, he sits in, Oscar Pettiford takes the tempo way-way-way up on Cherokee, and Cannonball nails it, and within a week he had a recording.
HAYNES: I could have been there. Like I said, I used to hang out a lot.
TP: Did you ever hear Miles and Coltrane at the Bohemia?
HAYNES: Of course.
TP: You also said you played the Half Note a lot.
HAYNES: A lot from the late ‘50s going into the ‘60s. What I didn’t like about it was that the bandstand was way up in the air. It was in the middle of the club, and they had two sides. The bar would separate one side from the other side. The bar was in the center of the place, and it was sort of up in the air, and you were sort of over the bar. It was really weird. But I played there a lot, and I used to enjoy it. They made the greatest sandwiches, because they were right near Little Italy, and they’d bring in the bread.
TP: I get the feeling the Half Note was a place where musicians used to enjoy hanging out.
HAYNES: Oh, yeah. Al and Zoot used to play there. I played there with them, and had my own projects there. I don’t think I played there with Trane.
TP: Was it just Birdland that you played with Trane?
HAYNES: I’m thinking. Just Birdland, I think. I went to the Vanguard to catch them one night, and they happened to be recording. I think Elvin hadn’t shown up. That’s why I turned up on something live from the Vanguard.
TP: Do you have any memory of that?
HAYNES: Well, I was just hanging out. I didn’t go down there prepared to play. But Eric was there then. Before that period, around that same period, I had a group with Eric… It couldn’t have been the same time, because I had a group with Eric, and we were working at a place on West Fourth Street. I forget the name. I had Eric Dolphy with me, Jaki Byard was there for a while on piano, splitting the gig with Richard Wyands, and on bass was Reggie Workman. Trane was working the Vanguard. After he’d finish his gig, he would be right over to my gig sitting in a corner. When we would get off the bandstand, he was there. And he hired all them guys to join him! That’s when Reggie joined him. And Eric.
TP: What was the appeal of the Village?
HAYNES: The Village was hip. Even the Lower East Side, as it was known in those days, it started moving from the Village over to the Lower East Side. All around there, it was exciting as hell. It felt European or something. The mix of the people, and just the whole atmosphere. It was different than… Well, I played the original Birdland at 52nd and Broadway. It was loose. You didn’t feel like you had to be dressed. Ha. Even though we were into dressing. But we were dressing down in that period. It was just an exciting feeling in the Village.
You had Slugs. You didn’t mention Slugs. Talk about someplace that was dirty! They had sawdust on the floor. But I loved it! It smelled like an old, old saloon. You know, back in the day they used to have saloons where the women were not even allowed. That’s what it smelled like. Not that I went to those places. I was too young. I didn’t even drink until later on. But I had a gig in Slugs with Cecil McBee on bass, I had Wayne Shorter for a few weeks, and there were some reel-to-reel tapes from that period that I think got lost.
TP: Would that have been around ‘66 or so, when Miles was off for six months or so?
HAYNES: It might have been in there.
TP: Randy Weston said when you played in Harlem or Brooklyn, you had to satisfy the audience. There was the feeling you could be more experimental in the Village?
HAYNES: Yeah. That comes from playing the Apollo Theater, man. You can’t fuck around. You had tough audiences. Black audiences were tough. And they knew the deal.
TP: So in the Village, it wasn’t that the audience was ill-informed, but perhaps they were more tolerant of some diffefent stuff, or…
HAYNES: Well, you could experiment more in the Village. Because a lot of the audience were poets or writers, or people who wanted to be writers or wanted to be musicians. You had hipper audiences.
TP: A few more impressions. Stan Getz.
HAYNES: I start to get serious now. Stan Getz. Good musician. Could be an asshole at any moment. There was a period when I was with Stan, we were playing a place on one of the main streets of Hollywood… We were scheduled for a few weeks, and we followed Miles Davis into the club, and Miles was packing them in. When Stan got there, the business was not too good. So they cut it down. I think we were doing maybe six nights a week, and they cut it down maybe to three. We just started doing weekends. I’m staying at a hotel right close to the club, and one of the days that I was off, Coltrane comes by the hotel. He’s getting ready to open at a club in the other part of town. I don’t know who told him where I was or that I was in town or that I was off! He got me to play the first part of the week. Elvin didn’t come in til later. It was like a relief to play with Coltrane and express what I had in me to express. It was nice playing with Stan, but Stan sometimes would be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For that period, I had to play with both guys; the first part of the week with Coltrane and the second part of the week with Stan.
TP: It sounds like Coltrane was a kind of soulmate for you.
HAYNES: There is something there. There’s a tape that I think Ravi has which was supposedly at the Showboat in Philadelphia. McCoy was on the gig, but he was late a lot during that period, and Trane was playing… I don’t know if the bass player was on the stand, but it sounds like a top quality recording, so you could hardly hear the bass. It sounded like a duo between Coltrane and myself. A lot of people have been hearing it lately and telling me about that. I think my son played it for me. I may have a copy of it here, even though I understand I was supposed to give it back to Ravi. That was kind of early.
TP: How about Pat Metheny?
HAYNES: The interesting thing about Pat and some of the other people whom we haven’t named: He used to come hear me play before I knew him! I never knew that til later. I remember once when they had the Kool Festival, as they used to call it, he was playing at Lincoln Center with Jaco Pastorius. I loved the stuff they were doing, so I went to check them out, and I enjoyed it, not even realizing that he was hip to me and we would playing together later. So there’s something there, in the air, like this guy is checking me out a long time before I’m realizing it, and then I’m checking him out, and then we play together years later.
TP: In jazz, if you go through that degrees of separation process, from what you’ve told me, you’re connected to King Oliver.
HAYNES: Yeah, isn’t that something? From King Oliver to Pat or Chick or the guys in my young band.
TP: They’re going to connect you out to 2050. Marcus Strickland will certainly be around.
HAYNES: Sometimes I’m in a club, and I say to the audience and also to the guys on the bandstand, “I wonder what Charlie Parker would say and think if he walked in here at this moment and I’m playing with these guys, and he’s checking it out.” I often say he would just… [END OF SIDE A] When you have to do a lot of talking, it’s going to take longer for the person to get it.
TP: You just said that some of these younger players, they’ve just got it. Marcus has got it.
HAYNES: When you have to try to explain something, explain it! When it just happens naturally, it’s an amazing thing. And that’s what can happen with this music. And some nights when it happens, oh, man, you can’t beat that!
TP: I’ve heard it happen many times with you.
HAYNES: This will be the first time going in the Vanguard in a matter of years, and it’s got to be a special thing.
TP: You have a grandson with whom you played on the bandstand at the Rose Theater, and he’s playing great. How does that make you feel?
HAYNES: Oh, man. That’s a serious dream. That’s heavy. On top of it… That’s magical, man! I could go into that so deep… I only have one daughter. Two sons and one daughter. When he was born, when she went to the hospital, my daughter’s words were, “Daddy, I wanted to give you a grandson.” She gave me granddaughters. I have granddaughters. But that’s what she told me when I went to see her the day she was born. “I wanted to give you a grandson.” That’s heavy. And he turned out to be like this. He goes to Manhattan School of Music, which is where the old Juilliard was. His dorm is right next door to where I lived when I was with Charlie Parker. I told him what floor I was on. When he passes there, he looks. Right next to where he’s staying. On top of that, to end it, he was born in the first house I bought.
TP: Did you teach him directly?
HAYNES: He was learning probably even before I realized it. He was checking.
* * *
Roy Haynes Profile (WKCR, March, 1996):
TP: I guess the first and obvious question is your origins. Is the drums a lifelong interest? Can you ever remember a time when you weren’t drumming?
HAYNES: Not really. I’ve been trying to play drums ever since I can remember. Way back. Mmm, I don’t remember how old I was when I picked up a pair of drumsticks at home. A long time ago. And I had the feeling before that to want to play. So the beat continues to go on.
TP: In your house I gather there was quite a bit of music. You had a brother who studied music formally.
HAYNES: Right. My older brother Douglas Haynes was really into the music. He would leave Boston, where we were living, come to New York, go to the Savoy and check out the battle of the bands, with Basie and whatever other band was battling. He’d always come back and tell the stories about it. He had all the records. And he had some drumsticks at home, and that was my first affair with the drumsticks.
TP: What did he play?
HAYNES: He didn’t really play professionally. He went to New England Conservatory and studied theory. He had trumpets, a ukelele. I remember him playing. He knew all the songs. He knew everything.
TP: But he was able to go to New York when you were still an adolescent or…
HAYNES: Oh, when he was very young he lived in New York with some of our relatives. Later he worked on the railroad, so he’d travel on the train. He came back and forth after that.
TP: What are your first memories of listening to Jazz music?
HAYNES: I heard it on the radio at home. I heard a little of everything. There were a lot of shows in Boston when I was growing up. One was called “The 920 Club”; I guess for 920 on your dial, with Benny Goodman’s “Goodbye” as the theme; I wanted to hear that every day, just to check that out. They played all kinds of music — Basie, Duke, Tatum, Artie Shaw was very big around there, naturally Goodman and Krupa.
TP: So all the bands came through Boston, and there were local and national broadcasts.
TP: Do you remember noticing the drummers in those bands?
HAYNES: Sure. Interlude. Drummers, a lot of them.
TP: Talk about some of those drummers, the people who inspired you when you were knee-high, as it were.
HAYNES: Well, so many of them. If they played anything good, it would knock me out.
TP: For instance, did you get to a point of being able to analyze drummers that you heard?
HAYNES: I didn’t analyze. Whatever I heard I guess automatically was going into my system. I didn’t try to figure out, really. But naturally I was into Jo Jones with the Basie band, and Jimmy Crawford was with Jimmie Lunceford, Sonny Greer was with Duke Ellington — on and on like that.
TP: When did you start going to see the big bands around Boston?
HAYNES: I didn’t start to go in the nightclubs until I was a teenager, maybe 17 or 18.
TP: So that would have been right before you left Boston.
HAYNES: I was 20 when I left Boston to join a big band.
TP: When did you start working in Boston?
HAYNES: I started working in Boston when I was still in high school, so I was probably 16 or 17 years old.
TP: What were the circumstances?
HAYNES: In Boston there was a guitarist by the name of Tom Brown. He was into Charlie Christian. Tom Brown knew all of his solos on whatever records, and he would play those same solos. I started hanging around with him and making gigs. On my first gig, I didn’t even have a complete set of drums, maybe just a ride cymbal and a snare drum. That was with Tom Brown. I got a few dollars; I don’t remember exactly how much.
I started playing with a lot of people, and I started working steady while I was in school, then I didn’t feel like waking up to go to school in the morning — like that, heh-heh.
TP: Were there ever lessons in school, by the way, or was this strictly a self-taught proposition?
HAYNES: No, there were no lessons in school with the drums. But my father knew I was interested in playing drums. A lot of drummers lived on our street, though not at the same time, including one named Herbie Wright. I think he was from South Carolina. He had the high cheekbones, very dark-complected. There was a band from the South that Jabbo Smith was involved in young called the Jenkins Band. They’d come through the neighborhood at different times of the year and would play outside. Herbie Wright sat in with them, and I was impressed. He had a thin-looking metal snare drum. My father started to give me drum lessons with Herbie. They were very loose, not formal. I remember him teaching me to play mamma-daddy, learning to roll and all of that.
TP: Describe, if you will, what the audiences were like at those neighborhood gigs in Boston. I’d imagine the music was just everywhere at that particular time.
HAYNES: Music was.
TP: And the people who listened were really knowledgeable, it would seem.
HAYNES: They were. Yeah, you really hit on that right away. I didn’t go out of Boston much, other than gigs around New Hampshire and Vermont and Connecticut. But the audiences there were really into the music. They knew what was happening. It wasn’t like today, a lot of questions. The people could feel the music and would groove with it. Later on, when I started working steady, the wars were on. I started working in downtown clubs, where there were a lot of servicemen — sailors and soldiers. They were happy just to be hanging out, so they dug the music in another way. But when I would play with people like Tom Brown and Sabby Lewis and other local people around neighborhood places in Boston proper, man, it was unforgettable.
TP: Well, Boston is a town with a great musical legacy, from Harry Carney and Johnny Hodges to Charlie Holmes, who I think is the guy who recommended you to Luis Russell. Were you very conscious of these other Bostonian musicians?
HAYNES: Probably, but moreso later, I think. I knew about Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney and a lot of people I was around, their mothers knew him — a lot of the young ladies. Yeah, I was aware of all of that.
TP: When you started playing professionally coincides with when in New York things were really starting to pop at Minton’s, and the new way of playing music was coming about. When did you first become familiar with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach? Did you hear about them in Boston, let’s say, in 1942?
HAYNES: Certainly. I heard about them. I met Kenny Clarke in Boston in 1942 or ’43 when he was with Red Allen, before I was familiar with the word “bebop,” when I was playing some of my first jobs. I’d heard about Charlie Parker with Jay McShann. I had the record Dizzy and Bird made together, “Groovin’ High” and all that, before I got to New York. I had some Coleman Hawkins. I think Max came to Boston with the Benny Carter Big Band. I was on top of all of it.
TP: So as ideas about rhythm and time and how to elaborate them were coming through, you were right there and playing the full 360 degrees of what music was at that time.
HAYNES: Well, maybe. [LAUGHS] I was trying. See, in Boston, a lot of the older musicians were very strict, especially with drummers, especially a young person coming up. During that period I was the youngest in all the bands I played with. But I was very positive on what I wanted to do, and I think I did it in the best way. As far as drummers breaking the rhythm, that was almost a no-no back in the day. That was the term they used when you’d get away from the beat and put some extra stuff in with the bass drum and whatever — which became almost my trademark, so to speak. They were strict, but I tried to do the right thing in what I was playing — and it worked.
TP: Were there any younger musicians you hooked up with in Boston who had similar ideas in the modernist vein, as it were?
HAYNES: During that period? Maybe not, when I first started. Like I say, I was usually the youngest. In one band they called me “the Kid.”
TP: Let’s talk about your leaving Boston, then, and making your way as a professional musician.
HAYNES: Phil Edmond(?) had the last band I worked with there. He had maybe six or seven pieces, a lot of arrangements. We played in a club called Little Dixie, which was at Mass Avenue at the corner of Columbus Avenue. That was one of the hang parts of town. I think Big Nick was in the band then, too. We had a job for the entire summer in Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1945. I got a special delivery letter from Luis Russell. I had joined the black local, 535, when I was 17. Luis Russell sent the letter there, asking me to join his band, telling me about the band, the places he played, and the different type of salary scales at the different theaters. I sent back a telegram telling him that I was interested, but I couldn’t join until after Labor Day — I wanted to finish this job I was on. Then he wrote me another letter, and it went on like that. I sent my drums to New York, and did my first New York gig with the band at the Savoy Ballroom.
TP: What do you recollect about that night, the crowd at the Savoy, the New York atmosphere?
HAYNES: [LAUGHS] Well, I was young and very exuberant! Luis Russell loved what I was trying to do, and it worked. That was really my first big band, I mean, 17-18 pieces.
TP: Were you familiar with who Luis Russell was…
HAYNES: I’d heard the name.
TP: …and Paul Barbarin and that aspect of drumming?
HAYNES: I had heard about him. I didn’t know too much about him. But I knew enough that he was connected with Louis Armstrong… You know, I went to London a couple of summers ago with my band. This wasn’t the first time going to London, of course. But there was a man waiting to interview me there, and he had all kinds of photos of the bands. He knew what year I was with Luis Russell, he knew the records I’d made, which a lot of people in our country don’t know anything about. I learned that Luis Russell was hooked up with King Oliver! I didn’t realize that then. I think I met Paul Barbarin when I went to New Orleans with the band. He was one of the great drummers.
TP: You said Luis Russell dug what you were trying to do.
HAYNES: They told me later that I changed the style of the band. One of the trumpet players in the band told that to my brother, and my brother told me. They didn’t tell me. I wasn’t aware. I knew what I was trying to do. Mainly I knew how to keep the beat and how to give that feeling, that swing. They had a certain Savoy beat. I learned a lot there. The Boston saxophonist Charlie Holmes told Luis Russell about me, though I don’t think he’d ever heard me play with a big band. He wasn’t in the band either at the time. Evidently I was doing something that they wanted.
I stayed with Luis Russell one year, then I got tired of traveling on that bus going all through the South. I had never been in the South before until 1945. The furthest south I had been was New York, Harlem! And that’s north. That’s uptown. It was like what you read and hear about. I don’t really want to get into all of that. But at least they told you! [LAUGHS] They told you what was on their mind down there. They’re a little more sophisticated up North; they didn’t tell you, but would stab you in the back. But I went back with the band in 1946. Lee Richardson was a young vocalist with the band at the time, and his first record with them, “The Very Thought Of You,” was a hit, a big seller. They couldn’t use his name for some reason, so he went by “Mister X”. It had nothing to do with Malcolm either! So Luis Russell had a hit record. I remember playing a week at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia that year. A lot of girls were coming out to check out Lee Richardson, and the Nat Cole Trio was headlining — the original trio with Oscar Moore and Johnny Miller. I had to play with them that week, too. I always talk about the great singers I’ve played with, especially the big three, but I’d forgotten about that all these years. Now I can put it in my bio. He was out of sight
TP: He was a real rhythmic master, too, wasn’t he.
HAYNES: Yes, that’s right. He had that rhythm. He could play.
TP: Did he have a lot of interplay with you?
HAYNES: Well, he was singing the ballads and so on, so he didn’t do much of that. But he did some up-tempo things.
TP: What were some of your activities in between temporarily leaving Luis Russell, then rejoining him?
HAYNES: Downtown on 52nd Street wherever. Hanging at Minton’s. Just hanging out. New York was very exciting during that period.
TP: Do you remember your first night on 52nd Street, and where it was and who you heard?
HAYNES: I do remember the first night on 52nd Street. My other brother, Vincent, who is still living in Boston, had gone into the Army. He was going to have his first furlough, and we hadn’t seen him. My father and my brother’s wife come on a train all the way to New York — and they miss him. He didn’t have a furlough, for some reason. So they came the following week. The following week I went with them, which I think was my first trip to New York. My brother, his wife and I take the train down to 52nd Street. I couldn’t believe all the names, all the people who were appearing, who I’d heard about and had the records, like Don Byas and Art Tatum and Billie. Everybody was down there! I couldn’t believe it. Walking around was like a dream.
TP: The first night you played on 52nd Street.
HAYNES: I remember the first night going moreso than remembering the first night I played. They used to have off-nights Mondays and Tuesdays, so that could have been the first time. It could have been with Don Byas. But the first time I had a steady job on 52nd Street was with Kai Winding at the Three Deuces in 1949.
TP: But you had joined Lester Young several years before that.
HAYNES: Well, that’s when I left Lester. And the only reason I left Lester was because he went with Norman Granz, and naturally the band didn’t go, so I had a lot of time off.
TP: How did he find you?
HAYNES: He’d heard about me. Dense (Argonne) Thornton was with the band then, he was around Miles and Bird during that whole period, and I was hanging around at Minton’s and all that stuff. I first remember meeting Prez in Detroit when I was with Luis Russell’s band, but I don’t know if Prez remembered me from then. I listened to him talk, with his high voice… [LAUGHS] He was very comical, a very comical guy. I joined him also at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and I’ll never forget the first night. I played the first couple of tunes, and he dug what I was doing. I knew he was sensitive, and I was busy with the left hand and the right foot, as usual, but I just kept the rhythm going. And once you do that, and you’re not too obtrusive… It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
TP: Within that time, I’d imagine, between hanging out at 52nd Street and being at Minton’s, is when you met and got to know Bud Powell and Charlie Parker and so on…
HAYNES: Well, I met a lot of people in Boston. I met Bud there while he was with Cootie Williams. We were all about the same age. He was always very fiery, man. Fast tempos.
TP: When did you first meet Charlie Parker, if you recollect?
HAYNES: I don’t remember. When I used to go to 52nd Street and listen to him, I was never introduced. In those days, a lot of the time you didn’t even have to be introduced, especially if you had something to say musically on your instrument. That took care of it for you. Somebody would know you, or… There were less of us then. There was a place on 52nd Street, around the corner, called the White Rose Bar. I didn’t even drink in those days; I used to be in the White Rose Bar. So that was the hang. Between shows everyone’s in there. You could meet anyone. [LAUGHS] Ben Webster and Don Byas, they could hang in the bars a lot. They’d have their mouthpieces, blowing at each other just with mouthpieces in the White Rose Bar. Then at Birdland there was a bar upstairs. There were all these places to hang. So it’s hard to remember how you met somebody during that period, at least in my case.
TP: How about drummer talk? I assume you knew Max Roach and Art Blakey and so forth?
HAYNES: Yeah. I met Art when I was a teenager in Boston. He came through there with Fletcher Henderson. Then he decided to stay in Boston for a long period, and we were hanging out every day.
TP: What did Art Blakey sound like in the early 1940’s? This must have been before he joined Billy Eckstine and encountered Dizzy Gillespie.
HAYNES: It was. In fact, he joined them in Boston. He sounded very fiery, as always, and… Hmm, he sounded almost the same!
TP: Talk a little bit about the ambiance at Minton’s, and getting on the stage and so forth.
HAYNES: That was quite a place. There was a long bar when you walk in, and all the sporting crowd, naturally, was at the bar. They’d come in the back, too. Lots of times when the music was really hot, a couple of guys would always get on the floor and start dancing by themselves, and everyone would try to cut each other dancing, improvising different steps. Oh, man, the music was always hot. Monday nights was the night for the jam, and lots of nights you’d have drummers waiting in line to sit in. When I first came to New York with Luis Russell 1945, Buddy Johnson and his big band was always playing at the Savoy, with Teddy Stewart, who was from Kansas City, playing drums. We joined our respective bands around the same time. One night we got back to the Savoy Ballroom, and Teddy says to me, “Did you go to Minton’s last night?” That was the first time I heard about Minton’s. Even though I had been through there during the day. Before I came to New York to live, I went there to meet Pete Brown, who I played with in Boston.
I started going to Minton’s a lot on Mondays, sitting in. The musicians would get free food usually, biscuits made from scratch, not that stuff that you get today. Those were the days of all of that. Good food and all of that.
TP: And at Minton’s it would go to 5-6-7 in the morning?
HAYNES: 4 o’clock legally. Many years later they had a downstairs; that’s where they would go all morning.
TP: Are there any anecdotes about Lester Young you’d like to share that are particularly telling about him, how you felt about him and so forth?
HAYNES: I can’t think of anything right now. There are a lot of things I could talk about, but right now I’m not in the mood to.
TP: I won’t press you.
HAYNES: Well, go and ask and see if I can deal with it.
TP: There’s a story I seem to recollect that may be with you, it may be apocryphal or not, “just give me titty-boom, titty-boom…”
HAYNES: Never. He never suggested anything. I know that story about Prez, “the little titty-boom.” He loved what I was doing, and he never told me anything like that. He may have had to tell a lot of people, you’d think he would have, but I think I knew how to handle it. Swing ’em to death, man.
TP: That sounds like your philosophy all the way, is do whatever you want but always swing within it, and make everybody happy.
HAYNES: Yeah, in most cases. [LAUGHS] Somebody made a record recently, I think a drummer, that says, “It don’t mean a thing if all you do is swing.” Maybe he’s listening!
TP: In ’49 you made that incredible date with Bud Powell. Were you working a lot with him also?
HAYNES: He didn’t work steady during that period. We made an appearance at the Orchard Room, which was changed from the Onyx after they changed managements. That was just before Birdland opened, and everyone was coming there. Charlie Parker was working across the street, he’d come over — the place was packed. Bud was burning. He was on fire. Much fire.
TP: You left him, joined Kai Winding, and I’d imagine you joined Charlie Parker shortly after that.
HAYNES: Right. But I was with Miles in ’49 before joining Charlie Parker. Miles used to say Charlie Parker stole his drummer.
TP: Was he right?
HAYNES: Well, a lot of these things happened in 1949, so who’s to say who belongs to who? And who worked really that steady back in those days, to use the term “my drummer” or “my pianist” or… No one belongs to anybody. Miles had left Charlie Parker first, and I went with Miles’ band. There was a place in Brooklyn called Soldier Myers, in the Brownsville section. That’s where I met my wife, in fact, in Brownsville. Miles sort of opened the room up with a jazz policy. I think we had Tadd Dameron first on piano (it ended up being Walter Bishop later), Nelson Boyd was on bass, Sonny Rollins was there for a minute, and Sonny Stitt was there for a minute playing alto. After that gig had finished, Max left Charlie Parker. Max was from Brooklyn, so he was going to Brooklyn and Soldier Myers, and he suggested I replace him with Charlie Parker. Then Charlie Parker came over to the Onyx, the Orchard Room, and asked me himself, and I made it. I did most of the period between 1949 and 1953.
TP: Did you do much traveling with Charlie Parker?
HAYNES: I used to go to Boston with him, St. Louis, Chicago. We used to go to Chicago quite a bit.
TP: Was the repertoire pretty consistent? Would he bring new material into the group, or was that mostly for records?
HAYNES: When we did new material it was probably during the period of the strings, when “Repetition” and all that stuff had come out, and some of the ballads, like “Autumn In New York.” That was one of the things he did with strings.
TP: Would he play for a long time, or did he generally play with the type of brevity that happens on the records? I heard a story where he told someone if he played more than four choruses he was practicing.
HAYNES: During that period nobody really played long — during the late ’40s and ’50s. They didn’t play long solos the way some of the artists do now. That was great. I didn’t mind that at all. In Philly, for instance, you played something like 40 minutes on, 20 minutes off, usually five sets. Then he would have to stick with that. There were some times when he didn’t feel up to it, but some nights he’d come in and burn all the way through.
TP: Was he very loose about the way you played? Was anything you did just fine, or did he give you input?
HAYNES: Very seldom. One thing I remember Charlie Parker telling me, when you go into a new place, like a new hall or something like that, where you haven’t played before, sort of feel it out, rather than just go in with your usual volume or whatever. I take that all the way with me, every place I go now.
TP: He was such an incredible rhythmic player. When he’s soloing you never hear the same rhythmic phrase for more than 4 bars or 8 bars. It must have been very stimulating to play with him.
HAYNES: Right. He could turn things inside-out, take it and turn it around. Oh boy, what an experience. He was playing the drums when he was playing all the time. [LAUGHS]
TP: You joined Sarah Vaughan in 1954, but I read in a liner note that maybe around 1948 you were at the same venue as she with Lester Young, and she mentioned she’d like to have you in her band. Is that true?
HAYNES: I think that’s true, yes. I played with Lester at Chicago’s Blue Note (I think we were there as long as three or four weeks sometimes), and sometimes I would accompany Sarah Vaughan. Her husband-manager then was George Treadwell, and eventually he sent me a note at a place called the Downbeat on 54th Street, asking me to join Sarah. That’s how it started.
TP: Now, was that a gig that took a lot of rehearsal and dealing with arrangements?
HAYNES: Depending on what project. We did a lot of big band stuff and some record dates with big band. We travelled a lot with the Basie Band. They put together shows called the Birdland All-Stars of whatever year it would be, with a whole package — Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and different bands. She would always use big bands for those type of gigs. Yeah, we would have to rehearse. Then sometimes when she was getting ready to do new material, we’d rehearse. We had some really slick trio arrangements that were not written, but developed over time. Man, they got so tight. When Jimmy Jones was there with Joe Benjamin and myself, it was like heaven. Jimmy Jones had some kind of trick with the pedal — I don’t know if it’s something he got from Art Tatum — where he would sound like strings and harps. Oh boy, he was involved.
I enjoyed my five years with Sarah, especially after being with Bird for a long time. Like when we worked in Philadelphia with Bird (I know I’m changing the subject a little), he’d commute from Philly to New York, and some nights we’d wait until daylight to get paid — the union man would be there. Now, all that was great. I always got all of my money. But I just enjoyed being with a singer, even if we were wearing sometimes bowties or whatever. We were playing the Waldorf-Astoria, traveling all over the world, the West Indies, Europe. I got comfortable there. Lots of times I’d drive my own car to Chicago just to hang out and enjoy life. And like I said once, I stayed too long at the fair. Before you know it, it was five years, man. When I left, it was time to leave. I never stayed any place else that long.
TP: You did the famous Five-Spot recordings with Monk in 1958. Did you meet Monk at the same time in Minton’s, too?
HAYNES: No, I met Monk in Boston. It was Coleman Hawkins’ gig, and Denzil Best was there; Al McKibbon may have been playing bass. Coleman Hawkins had Don Byas playing with him, one of the greatest tenor players in the world using another great tenor next to him. That knocked me out. That’s when I met Monk. For long periods, Monk didn’t play any gigs in New York, like Bud Powell; probably it was the cabaret card. Monk reminded me of Lester Young a little. He didn’t say much, but when he did say something, he would say it. One time we were standing backstage at the Apollo Theater at 126th Street, which was the only time I played the Apollo with Monk. We’re standing on one side of the street, Monk takes a coin out of his pocket, walks across the street, hits the lamp-post with the coin, and comes back to me and says, “I thought so.” It was a certain note he had in his head, a certain pitch maybe. But he was like that.
TP: How much did you play with Monk apart from these sessions at the Five-Spot?
HAYNES: I think we did it a couple of times at the Five-Spot, two or three times, and it was always lengthy — one time the whole summer. Sometimes Monk would be there, sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he’d come in at midnight. I’ll never forget when the Jazz Gallery, a bigger place than the Five-Spot, opened on St. Mark’s Place a bigger place. The first night they opened with Monk, or maybe Monk and Coltrane, but it was like a double-bill. It was during the summer. They didn’t have air-conditioning, and it was loaded with people. We had to wait all night for Monk to show up! [LAUGHS] People would wait him in those days. Now probably they’d be asking for their money back.
TP: I’ve heard comments from drummers that it was very difficult to play with Monk because his rhythms come in such odd places, so unexpectedly. What was it like for you?
HAYNES: Oh, it’s very true. It was very interesting. Monk would say drummers can only play a few tempos. You take them out of those few tempos that they like to be comfortable in, and then they’re uncomfortable. He was kind of slick. He knew a lot. But really, it was easy to play with him — to some extent. It was a challenge. Shadow Wilson played with him. That was it! And Art Blakey, Max, Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley, who came in after me, all sounded great with Monk.
TP: Fantasy put out a box-set of the complete Eric Dolphy recordings, and you’re on eight dates with Dolphy and Oliver Nelson almost continuously between 1960 and 1961. Were you working with Dolphy in a band, or were those dates where the producer would call you to come into the studio?
HAYNES: Probably a combination of both. When Oliver came to New York, we worked a lot together in the studio. I guess he dug the direction I was going, and he wanted me on most of his dates. Eric as well. I did Eric’s first date, Outward Bound. When I would be in California during the ’50s, Eric was always hanging with me. Even when he came to New York (I think he came to New York with Chico Hamilton), he was always over at my house. When he did his first date he wanted me to be on it. In California, he was more into Bird, but he went in a different direction when he got to New York. He said he always loved listening to the birds sing in his yard in California, and he was into that with his horn as well. He was really into the music. It seems I like him more on the bass clarinet than the alto — it’s more mellow.
TP: You made two recordings with Andrew Hill that rank among the classics of that time, Smokestack and Black Fire. Were you working with him on gigs?
HAYNES: I never did work with Andrew. In fact, I remember him asking me to do the date. Seems like a lot of writers think if you recorded with somebody that you worked with them, but that was not the case. Sometimes somebody just wanted you to make a record, and you did it.
TP: He seems to be able to set up a very dynamic rhythmic situation, and you’d seem to be the ideal drummer for him.
HAYNES: His music was different. He was somewhere else as well. He reminded me…a little Monkish, but not. He was really somewhere else during that period. [LAUGHS]
TP: Talk about the challenge of playing with Coltrane.
HAYNES: You really had to keep your mind on what you were doing with him, because the feeling would go in different directions. I once said in a magazine that playing with Coltrane was like a beautiful nightmare. People ask what I meant by that. I guess some nightmares can be beautiful. It reminded me of sort of a Pentecostal Church. It was very spiritual. I found that John Coltrane had a built-in drummer, and all you had to do was accompany him. That’s the way it was in my case. A lot of things that I’d thought about doing when I played with some of the other great innovator saxophone players, I could do with him. The ’60s was a different period anyhow for life in general. People were taking more chances, whatever. We were talking earlier about Charlie Parker playing only a few choruses. Coltrane may be one of the few artists who could play a lot of choruses and keep you listening. I mean, he’d come to one climax, build and come to another, very intense, and have something to say.
Earl Bostic used to do it a long time ago. I think that’s where Trane got it. One time Trane played something, and when we got through with that set I was thinking of what he was playing. I said, “Where did you get that from, Coltrane?” He said, “Earl Bostic.” Yeah, Earl Bostic used to play. I remember jam sessions in the Bronx. There was a place on Boston Road called the 845 Club. I remember Sunday afternoon sessions there in the late ’40s, Earl Bostic would be there, he would play lengthy, and he would satisfy the people. He had something. So maybe some saxophone players should check out Earl Bostic, like Trane did.
TP: Well, he was in Earl Bostic’s band, and Johnny Hodges…
HAYNES: Yeah, he was in his band and Johnny Hodges. Maybe that’s why he could play ballads so damn good. You’re listening to it right there, you know.
TP: He referred to you and Elvin Jones as being able to…
HAYNES: Spread out the rhythm.
TP: Right. I don’t know if I have a specific question about that. Do you have any thoughts on that?
HAYNES: I hadn’t heard that term before, but I thought he described it very good — “spreading the rhythm.” I would never have come up with it. Someone else can sometimes describe what you’re doing or trying to do better than you.
TP: So the things you did with Coltrane were almost like the demands of the music. You had to do them to execute what you heard in your mind’s ear…
HAYNES: You didn’t have to do any one special thing except keep it burning for him. I was in my car stuck in traffic in Manhattan once listening to “One Down, One Up”, and at one point McCoy was playing, then Coltrane came back in and he was screaming! I said, “Something must have happened.” I was in my car, by myself driving, and people probably thought I was going crazy! Oh, man, he had me. Evidently, I may have had him to help him to scream as such.
TP: Would that sort of thing happen, let’s say, with Lester Young or Charlie Parker?
HAYNES: Not that way. Sure, it would happen, but not quite like that — because of a lot of things. The ’60s, man, whoo — it was a serious period. I was very wild in the ’60s. What can I really say? It happened, and I’m glad it was captured.
TP: During that time you were part of Stan Getz’s working band. You recorded with him back in 1949.
HAYNES: That’s very true. At one point, speaking of Stan Getz I’m in California, we were doing six nights in a club on Sunset Boulevard when John Coltrane was there. They cut us to three nights, just the weekend, so I did the first part of the week with John Coltrane. That was in the ’60s. It was a helluva period, to play with these two different guys, both so great.
TP: Well, some of your freest playing happened with Chick Corea in the late ’60s, not like with Coltrane, but extremely open and spacious. That concept of spreading the time I think really flourished in that trio.
TP: Did that relationship begin through Stan Getz? He played with him briefly.
HAYNES: We did play together with Stan Getz. Yes, that’s the first time we played together.
TP: What was your impression of Corea’s music? You’ve recorded his compositions on almost every record.
HAYNES: Oh, I always liked his writing. Like Coltrane, he is a drummer. In fact, I just learned this year that he was making some gigs on drums when he was in New York, on the East Side, different places. You walk into his house, the first thing you see sometimes is a set of drums. I never heard Trane talk about drums or anything like that, but in his playing he had a built-in drummer. He feels it. His notes are so even. Some people depend on the drummer for the time, they go against the time maybe and wait for the drummer to let them know where the time is. But with Trane it wasn’t so. You’re just there.
TP: Was that also the case with Charlie Parker and Lester Young?
HAYNES: Sure. Different period, though. Lester Young, when he says.. [SINGS CHORUS FROM “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid”], one-two-three — it’s right there. All you’ve got to do is design around it.
TP: That’s a very nice word you used, designing the rhythm.
HAYNES: Yeah, man.
TP: The implication there is dance.
HAYNES: Tell me about it.
TP: No, please tell me about it.
HAYNES: [LAUGHS] Now that you’re talking about Prez, at the Savoy Ballroom they danced sometimes when we were playing. When I had the Hip Ensemble, a few years back, I was playing a gig outdoors in Harlem, and when I drove up there was a young guy waiting for me who I didn’t know. He says, “I’m waiting for you.” This guy danced all during my drum solos, improvising. I was amazed to see what this guy was doing. I’m playing all these breaks, and he’s dancing through all of them. It’s marketable.
TP: Speaking of which, did you ever play with tap dancers on these shows?
HAYNES: Oh yes.
TP: Like Baby Lawrence.
HAYNES: I sure did. When I was 16 or 17 years old in Boston, a lot of those gigs I had, I had to play for tap dancers. I used to try to tap dance — at home only. I tap dance on the drums, you know.
TP: Is that part of what you’re thinking about when you play?
HAYNES: I guess I’m thinking about it in my subconscious mind. I’m thinking about rhythms, even when I walk. I’m thinking constantly about rhythms and beats, which dancers do.
TP: You even sit at the drum-kit differently than most drummers. You sort of half-stand and you’re dancing at the drum kit.
HAYNES: Well, hey, I try to be in it, inside of it. Yes.
TP: I’d like to talk to you about the way you organize your bands. On your records you seem to record music by people who have been significant to your career. Every record has a Chick Corea tune, every record has a Monk tune, there’s always a ballad, probably Sarah Vaughan sang, there are things by Coltrane and things Charlie Parker recorded. Can you comment?
HAYNES: Sure, it’s influenced by the different artists. I mentioned the drum thing Coltrane and Chick have, and Monk, with his special quality, his special tempos and very unique writings. These things stayed with me from being around these people. Charlie Parker, of course. Some of the tunes I try to include in our repertoire are tunes not often played. Usually, after we play them a while, then they become a little more popular, especially if they are being played on the air and whatnot, and then we play them in person. But those are things that feel fresh to me, and I like the feeling of the way the tunes lay.
TP: There’s also been for a long time an aspect of Caribbean music and Caribbean rhythms. Your parents I believe were Barbadan, yes?
HAYNES: That’s correct.
TP: Was the Caribbean music something that was always there in the household, or…
HAYNES: No, it was not in the household much. But maybe just listening to them talk with their accents, it’s naturally there. Not the tunes themselves, but the feeling of it. I love it! I go down there a lot.
TP: Have you dealt with hand drumming much, or with hand drummers?
HAYNES: A little, not too much. I went to Senegal a couple of times. There’s a lot of great drummers, but one in particular, Dudu Rose. One time when I had the Hip Ensemble, we had to do two concerts. One was a free concert, and we were to play together at some point. I thought he was going to sit in with my band, but he didn’t speak English and we didn’t talk about it. When I got there, word was that I was to sit in with his band. He had all drummers. They played with one stick and one hand. I sat in with them and we played. There was nothing rehearsed and we didn’t discuss anything, but at one point we just started getting down on the instruments. I had to feel it and listen for when certain people would be playing solos. At one point they were playing something that sounded like a background, and they were all looking at me, which made me think that it was my time to solo, and they were backing me up. Man, we got involved, so involved that everybody was screaming. They speak sort of French with a dialect, and when I got off I could just hear, “Roy Haynes!” Somebody told me I could have run for office and won right away. So yeah, I’m into hand drums, and I listen to all different types of drums.
TP: Do you practice a lot with your moves? Probably not now, but at an earlier point did you do a lot of practicing? Or was it always an on-the-stand type of thing that was in function with the music?
HAYNES: I am constantly practicing in my head. In fact, the teacher once in school sent me to the principal, because I was drumming with my hands on the desk in school. My father used to say I was just nervous. I’m constantly thinking rhythms, drums. When I was very young I used to practice a lot; not any special thing, but just practice playing. 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’m thinking summer, winter, fall, spring, hot, cold, fast and solo, and colors. But I don’t analyze it. I’ve been playing professionally over 50 years, and that’s the way I do it. People do it different ways. I do it like that.
TP: What are the qualities somebody needs to be part of the Roy Haynes circle?
HAYNES: I don’t know always. You’ve got to have some feeling and imagination, and there has to be some warmth in whatever instrument you’re playing. It has to be not rigid, not tight; the music is tight but it’s still loose. I don’t look for things. I try to adjust. Usually one guy will recommend another guy that maybe he went to school with or something like that. I’ll listen to those guys, then I’ll try to put together what I’m feeling from them. I try to understand their concept, then I take it all the way out and see if they’re going to understand my concept. I feel it back and forth. I don’t put it into words, and it’s not an audition. I’m not into all of that. First of all, I don’t want to work steady. Years ago I was saying I was semi-retired. I don’t have to say that any more, because they took me out of my little semi-retirement. But I work, and then I cool out and I think and I dream and go throughout the world, and it’s great. I don’t like to analyze everything and put everything in a certain position and it has to stay in that position.
TP: Do arrangements form themselves in the band?
HAYNES: To some extent, but I structure them like riding a horse. You pull a rein you tighten it up here, you loosen it there. I’m still sitting in the driver’s seat, so to speak. But I let it loose, I let it go, I see where it’s going to go and what it feels like. Sometimes I go out, and sometimes I’ll be polite, nice and let it move and breathe.
TP: Very unpredictable sets.
HAYNES: Maybe, to some extent. But still in the pocket and with feeling.
TP: Do you try to surprise yourself in every set?
HAYNES: I do surprise myself. The worst surprise is when I can’t get it to happen! Then I go the bar. But usually it comes out. I don’t play for a long period, and 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. A great musician told me he came to hear me, and I played a whole set without playing a solo. I kind of doubt that. Sometimes I play my solos at the end. I don’t always trade 4’s or 8’s with the guys. I like them to trade and just keep it moving, and spread the rhythm, as Trane said. Keep it moving, keep it crisp.
* * * *
Roy Haynes (for Drumworks):
TP: Do you still practice. And if you do still practice, what do you practice?
HAYNES: My practicing now is like a doctor practicing. When they say a doctor is practicing that means he’s operating on you or doing his thing. I’ve been doing that for years; on the gig is my practice. Sometimes I may sit behind the drums, because I was taking long periods when I wouldn’t play at all. Those have become a little shorter, though now and then I cool out for a month or so. But I’m always thinking drums. I’m walking drums. That’s my whole rhythm thing. But naturally you’ve got to keep that blood flowing and the juices in your body, so you can be loose enough to play. So I don’t really sit down and practice. What I was doing some years ago, I would invite certain people out to my house and we would just play. Like, Kevin Eubanks would come out when he was playing with me, and Ralph Moore, and all those guys; David Kikoski still comes out. And that’s my practice.
TP: You practice by playing.
HAYNES: Exactly. Because I don’t know what to practice. I never was into the rudiments and all of that stuff anyhow. I’m not a rudimental drummer. Not really. I’ve got my own rudiments. I never learned that even hand stuff. I tried at it; I was never good at it.
TP: I gather you were pretty much self-taught, and there was a drummer on your block named Herbie Wright who gave you some lessons.
HAYNES: Yes, Herbie Wright. He was an older guy. He played with the Jenkins Orphanage Band in South Carolina that Jabbo Smith and Cootie Williams was in. Herbie Wright was a short guy, and I imagine that he was from North Carolina because he had high cheekbones, very dark skin. But we just did some informal things. He had a snare drum in his living room someplace, and my father knew him. I went up to him a couple of times, and that was it.
TP: So other than that it was pretty much learning by doing.
HAYNES: Exactly. Which I’m still doing. I’m still learning, you know.
TP: That leads me to ask who are your drumming heroes.
HAYNES: Well, Papa Jonathan [Jones] was my main guy, even though I was into Cozy Cole, because I had that record, “Crescendo In Drums,” that he made with Cab Calloway. I had a record of Chick Webb, whom I never did see in person. Some of the younger guys later, such as Kenny Clarke, whom I met in Boston in the early ’40s. I met Art Blakey in Boston when he came there with Fletcher Henderson. I didn’t meet Max when he came through with Benny Carter, but I caught him, and I had the records he was on with Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy and all of that. Shadow Wilson I met when he was with Lionel Hampton, and later he was with Earl Hines. All these guys were part of my thing.
TP: You also said that you’d go to hear the big bands, and you’d hear Jimmy Crawford and Sonny Greer and the others who came through.
HAYNES: Yeah. I couldn’t get close to them, though, in terms of meeting them. Later in life Sonny and I became very cool. But Jo Jones, he was open. In fact, when I went to the RKO Theater in Boston where the Basie band was playing, I went backstage and told them I was his son, man, so I got right in. The guys in the band got a kick out of that. They said, “Here’s your son, man!” I was ahead of the time as far as the word “Papa Jo” was concerned!
TP: Did you emulate these drummers in forming a style, or a sound?
HAYNES: Well, I tried. But I wasn’t too comfortable trying to do that. It didn’t work for me. So I had to go out and dig for myself.
TP: Well, who are some of the young drummers today you most want to know about…
HAYNES: You know what? I get that question all the time. I can’t answer it. There’s a lot of great talent out there. A lot of the youngsters are really into it, and I’m going to leave out somebody. I’ll say that there are some pretty hot ones. They’ve got good hands. I don’t know if I dig where they put things. I don’t always dig their imaginations, but they’ve got a lot of stuff to work with.
TP: So if there’s anything lacking in young drummers, it’s their imagination?
HAYNES: I wouldn’t even want to say that there are things lacking. Even though there may be, you know.
TP: What do they most want to know about when they talk to you?
HAYNES: I get all kinds of questions in general. They ask me all kinds of things. I can’t think offhand of one thing. A lot of them, not only the drummers…. Well, this is a drummer’s thing. But just musicians ask me questions in general, not particularly drummers. They try to check out things and…
TP: Well, obviously they watch you and try to emulate.
HAYNES: Some of the guys write down some of the stuff you play. And a lot of that stuff is hard, I’m sure, especially the direction I go now, which is soloing. It’s elastic, it’s back forth, there aren’t always measures to count. That’s my concept now.
TP: How does your current band facilitate that concept, with Danilo Perez and John Patitucci?
HAYNES: Well, a lot of people want to play with me, naturally, because I’ve become the link, so to speak. They want to be associated with people I’ve played with; for instance, pianists like Monk or Bud Powell or Chick Corea. They want to be part of that. But what I am trying to do at this stage of my life is to do anything and everything that comes to mind, but try to place it in a place where it’s going to mean something. Years ago, when I played with those people, I didn’t do everything that I was capable of doing because it wouldn’t fit. So now, whatever I do, if I play with somebody else, they sort of have to go in my direction, because there’s no telling what I’m going to do. And these guys are up for it. I’m stretching the beat, I’m going fast and slow…taking it fast and slow and hot and cold. And it seems to work. There’s an audience for it. They seem to love it!
TP: Well, Danilo Perez almost seems like a second drummer.
HAYNES: Well, he’s got a lot of rhythm! So it can work. Sometimes we meet up with the same thing, the same beats — not even trying to particularly. It happens spontaneous. That’s what they were thinking of calling the trio record.
TP: And this record, like all your records of the last decade, surveys your career and your connections and the people who played with. There’s a Monk piece, a piece associated with Bird, one with Bud, one with Sarah Vaughan, one by Chick Corea, and so on.
TP: Your style was so beloved by singers, and you played with Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, and even once for a week with Nat Cole.
HAYNES: I did a week with Nat Cole in 1946 in the Earle Theater in Philadelphia.
TP: What’s the art to backing a singer, from your perspective?
HAYNES: I guess I was just learning then when I was trying to do it, and whatever it is, I think I captured it. I can’t always put it into words. It’s still that thing of listening and being sensitive. When I played with Billie Holiday, sometimes I wasn’t sensitive enough maybe. But I know what you have to do. I knew what they wanted. I said recently in an interview that playing with Sarah Vaughan was like playing with Charlie Parker. She had that kind of mind. She was ready for new things. Playing with Billie Holiday was like playing with Lester Young. And playing with Ella Fitzgerald was like playing with the Basie band. She’d work you to death, Ella Fitzgerald, man! She’d sing long and she’d scat but she was SWINGIN’ in there. So I had a taste of all that. I recorded with Ray Charles, too, and Carmen and a lot of different singers. I played with Lee Wiley up in Boston.
TP: Are you someone who knows all the lyrics?
HAYNES: I know a lot of lyrics. I didn’t particularly learn them playing with the singers. A lot of people say, “Yeah, you played with Sarah Vaughan…” I knew lyrics before that.
TP: Do you sing?
HAYNES: All the time! [LAUGHS]
TP: What do you remember most from your time with Coltrane, and was there anything in particular that he wanted to hear?
HAYNES: Well, Coltrane had with him one of the greatest drummers ever — Elvin. Each time I played I was sort of filling in for Elvin. It wasn’t really the same, but Elvin was familiar with me from the period when I was with Bird.
TP: So I hear. I gather he used to meet you at the train station.
HAYNES: Yeah, he talks about that. That’s when I was with Ella Fitzgerald, because Hank and I were playing together then. So a lot of people haven’t realized that he was hip to me way back before they were — “they” meaning maybe some of the writers and journalists and historians. But I think they’ve learned that since then.
But what did Trane want? Trane didn’t say too much about what he wanted. There was something in me that I guess he was familiar with, and that I just had to lay back a little and let it happen.
TP: You told me that Coltrane was one of the very few artists who could play a lot of choruses and keep you listening, which you said he got from Earl Bostic.
HAYNES: Well, yes. Earl Bostic was very long-winded. He’d play a lot of choruses. Trane may have got that from him. I remember one time Trane was playing something, and afterwards I hummed what he was playing to him, and I said, “Man, where did you get that?” He said, “Earl Bostic.” [LAUGHS] He told me that himself. He worked with Earl. During 1946 there were a lot of jam sessions around New York. There was a guy named Johnny Jackson who is not living now. He used to give sessions in the Bronx, at the Club 421 I think the name of it was…or maybe not the 421… It was something on one of the main streets. Earl used to be part of that, and I used to play with those guys. I was usually one of the drummers. Sid Catlett was the drummer on some of those sessions. So I got a taste of all of that, too. And I learned later how important Earl Bostic was. He was a crowd-pleaser, plus he was very musical.
TP: Plus an incredible technician, a scientist of the saxophone.
HAYNES: There you go.
TP: Coltrane also had the phrase “spreading the rhythm” in reference to you.
HAYNES: That’s the term he used describing Elvin and myself.
TP: It’s an interesting term. Do you feel it’s something that got unlocked in you from playing with him, or is it something you were doing all along?
HAYNES: I would think that’s something that I was about. Because even back when playing the hi-hat, the sock cymbal on 2 and 4 a lot, I didn’t really do a lot of that. Sometimes on a record I would do it, because certain musicians needed or wanted that. But I sort of played loose. That’s one thing that really got me with Lester Young. He liked that looseness. It’s still swinging. I’m still doing a lot of little accents with the bass drum in my left hand, even in my early career, and it could work with somebody if they could play, if they had the rhythm. I’m talking about the person you’re accompanying. Some guys needed that whole thing all the time for you to give them the 2-and-4 feeling. But with Trane, all I could do is just swing and play. With Lester Young, too, and Charlie Parker.
TP: You’ve referred to Coltrane as a drummer, Bird as a drummer, Chick Corea as a drummer, Lester Young, Monk… You referred to them all as drummers.
HAYNES: Yes. They have a drummer inside them. All you do is accompany them, man.
TP: You said all you have to do with them is design around it, designing the rhythm.
HAYNES: Yes. Mingus used to say, “Roy Haynes doesn’t always play the beat. He suggests the beat!” That’s somebody describing me, and maybe to that extent he was right.
TP: Which sounds like choreography, choreographing a tap dance to a certain extent.
HAYNES: There you go. I used to try to tap dance years ago at home, not in public. Every now and then I still… I’ve got more of a right foot than a left foot, though! But even now, I’m into checking out Savion Glover. And Jimmy Slyde is my buddy; he’s still around dancing, and we sort of grew up together,. Also when I started playing as a teenager, I played for a lot of tap dancers through my early career.
TP: You can kind of hear it in your attack, too, because your strokes are so crisp and your punctuation so precise. Is clarity of ideas always your goal and focus?
HAYNES: Sometimes. I guess maybe most of the time in solos. It’s like having a conversation, or telling a story, painting a picture. Sometimes it’s abstract; sometimes it’s right there to the point, right in the rhythm; sometimes it spreads out. That’s what I try to do. I try to make it say something. Take you someplace.
TP: You mentioned that even when you were very young, you were always playing the drums in your head, always thinking about drums, always thinking about rhythm…
HAYNES: Yes, playing with my thumbs even at school, with the desk. The desk had an opening. The desk was made like a drum; it was hollow on the inside where you could put your books and everything. So I liked the sound of it. I would do that, and the whole class would be listening to me rather than listening to the teacher — and they would throw me out! They sent me to the principal’s office in high school. Because I was always playing with my little nervous hands. You know what I mean? I was always drumming, man.
TP: You’re playing very free and, as you said, you’re soloing all the time, but there are structures within the songs, and certain arrangements, whether they’re loose or tight or whatever, and I’m wondering about how you guide the flow of a performance.
HAYNES: It varies. It may depend on my mood, or it may depend on the song itself. Usually, when I have, say, my quartet, I don’t always solo. I wait for a while. I have to really feel relaxed or comfortable enough. I have to be comfortable around how I’m sitting, how the audience is, if they’re loud or attentive. That’s when I figure I’m best at soloing, when I’m ready to, rather than have to play with somebody who is going to tell me when to solo — they’re going to trade here or they’re going to trade there. I don’t usually like to do it that way. Lots of times, when I have a saxophone, I’ll have the saxophone and the piano playing fours against each other, and I’ll just be designing around them. I don’t always like to play fours. I did that with Prez back in the ’40s; I don’t always like to do that. So I like to solo when I’m ready, and it seems to work, because the audience really seems to eat it up that way. There’s an audience for what I’ve been trying to do, I’m finding out, all over the world.
TP: You started out playing for dancers a lot. When you came to New York, your first gig was at the Savoy, and you’ve referred to how the Savoy beat imprinted itself on you. What’s the difference between playing for dancers and playing in a sitdown concert situation, which is how life is in the jazz business these days?
HAYNES: Well, there’s a certain thing that you have to do to keep the people dancing. I’ve had some times when the people won’t dance until you get a certain… Or sometimes you play a melody that they like, then once you get them on the floor, man, you can take them where you want to take them — to some extent. But there’s an art to doing that. I did a lot of it, and I tried to get away from that, and just play concerts for people listening. But I know how to do it. I know how to handle that. I can still do it if I wish.
TP: You’ve always had a very distinct snare drum sound. Why do you tune it high and tight with lots of crispness?
HAYNES: It seems to be effective. It seems to work. I don’t always know why I do things, but there sure is a reason up there. But whatever the reason is, it seems to really get over. It seems to work! I don’t know why, though. I just found out last night, when I was doing a soundcheck… From night to night you go to different places, and your drums may change. Danilo was telling me I always get that same note. There are two notes; I get one or the other. He would hear me hit the drums playing a melodic thing, then he would hit them on the piano. I knew what I wanted in my head all the time, all these years! And he says it’s always the same notes, either one or the other — one of two notes. That’s pretty good. I tried for that. That’s what I tried to do. Now, he answered without me even asking. “Yeah, Roy Haynes, you always get that note, man.”
TP: You also have a real wide-open bass drum sound. It’s instantly recognizable for certain drummers. They hear one stroke, and they know it’s you.
HAYNES: How about that. That’s interesting. In fact, it’s so wide open… It may have been wide open at Birdland, sometimes maybe too much for the bass player. It’s an 18″ bass drum. I don’t like bass drums all cluttered up, unless I’m just playing a whole Rock thing — but I’m not a Rock drummer.
TP: What does it mean, you’re not a Rock drummer?
HAYNES: Well, that speaks for itself. I’m not. Someone was asking me earlier about the technicians today in the studio and studio playing. I’m not always comfortable in a studio. Everything is geared toward that Rock-Funk thing, mostly.
TP: Is it too mechanical?
HAYNES: It’s very mechanical. It’s a very mechanical sound. Most of the drummers that play today, they all sound alike. Their drums sound alike. I’ve never wanted to sound too much like anyone else, ever since I’ve been an adult.
TP: So being an individual has always been your animating imperative, really.
HAYNES: Somewhat. One year I had bought a new convertible, and one of my buddy drummers was in the car, and he says, “Roy Haynes, what are you trying to do?” I said, “I’m trying to be myself!” I said that then, in 1950!
TP: I need to know the components of your kit. If you don’t want to go into it, tell me who I should ask, so I can get the accurate information.
HAYNES: Joe Testa at Yamaha. He’ll give you all the details. I have different sets. I have two floor toms, and I don’t always use them.
TP: What do you have with you now?
HAYNES: I don’t know all the sizes. An 8″-by-10″, I think, and a 9″-by-12″ rack tom, as they call them now. I have one I think 14″ or 16″ floor tom; I’m not sure which. I have two crash cymbals. A flat ride cymbal that was sort of copied after the cymbal that I used on “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” which has become very classic and very popular. In fact, the cymbal that I used on “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” with Chick Corea was a flat ride Paiste, which is when they first started making them. I had one of the first ones. I may have been the first drummer to record with it. When Chick Corea started Return to Forever, he came over to my house and borrowed a cymbal, and kept it all of these years. Then last year, I think, he took that same Paiste cymbal and brought it to Zildjian and had them try to copy it — a sort of cloned cymbal. They gave me three or four, and they gave Chick a few of them. So that’s what I’m using right now, and it really worked with this trio. It’s only an 18″ flat ride.
TP: Why does it work so well with this trio?
HAYNES: Well, John Patitucci, most of his stuff is pretty light on the acoustic bass. He likes to play light, so this cymbal works with him, along with the piano. Even though I know the bass drum sometimes probably can get a little boomy in there! But sometimes I don’t play it, or sometimes I just let him play solo without the drums.
TP: And you do a lot of exchanges on the record.
HAYNES: Oh yes. We did some 12s on “Sippin’ At Bells” and some of the other stuff.
TP: How has drum equipment changed over the years, from when you were playing with Lester Young and Charlie Parker to today? Is it a much more efficient instrument? Have the materials changed your sound in any way?
HAYNES: Well, not too much. Except they started making all of the drum stands and the cymbal stands and the drum throws and the seats…they started making them heavier. I guess a lot of the Rock drummers were breaking up the stuff, so they started making everything stronger and heavier, which cost me a lot of money traveling. If I’m the leader, that comes out of your expenses — the overweight.
But let me say this. When I was with Lester Young, which was 1947 to 1949, I think my drums had got stolen. I think I had a 22″ bass drum, because I came from the Luis Russell Big Band to Lester Young. Then I had one of the first 20″ bass drums in 1949. Then after that they started making smaller ones, so I got to the 18″, and I’m pretty comfortable with the 18″. So it went from the 22″ when I was with the big band, Luis Russell… 22″ was considered small because a lot of people had 24″ bass drums, and 28″ was standard for a bass drum in the ’40s, or at least the early ’40s. Then I had this small snare drum, 3″-by-13″, which we called a bebop snare. That’s in that famous picture with Monk, Mingus and Bird, taken at the Open Door — that little snare drum. I still have another one at my house in Long Island.
TP: Are cymbals similar to what they were then?
HAYNES: Well, everything has improved. They last longer.
TP: A lot of drummers, when they talk about you, describe you as having an internal clave. It’s not explicit, it’s almost implicit in the way you…
HAYNES: It must be Latin drummers who talk about that.
TP: No. They’re drummers who are interested in Latin music, but not Latin drummers. Could you talk a bit about your relations to Latin music and diasporic music within your trapset style?
HAYNES: I was always into the Latin music. My folks were from the Caribbean anyhow — Barbados. And I always listened to it. When I first came to New York, there was a lot of great Latin music — uptown, all over Manhattan. When places like Birdland opened, and the Royal Roost, Machito’s band was very popular. He had a drummer named Uba, and we were always checking Uba out. He didn’t play with a complete trapset. He had timbales in his set, and a bass drum, and no hi-hat… I forget exactly his setup. But I used to listen to him all the time, and Tito Puente and those guys, way back in the day. I was very close with Willie Bobo. Mongo and Willie Bobo were living in the same complex in the Bay Area when they were playing with Cal Tjader. They had checked out my concept way back then on records and from in-person appearances, and they would say that I approached the drumset like timbales. They were telling me that in the late ’50s and early ’60s. So there was some relation. And that was my approach. I felt that. I was into that on a lot of solos and everything.
TP: I guess Danilo Perez must really relate to that in your band.
HAYNES: Oh, man, he loves it. All night long he’s telling me, “You’re the only one, man! You’re the only one!” Jack Hooke and Symphony Sid used to present Monday Latin Night at the Village Gate, and sometimes they would feature a jazz guy with one of the Latin bands. When Jack called me to do it, I was to play with Tito Puente’s band as a guest. And man, we got hooked up so heavy there with the rhythms that Tito… The lead trumpet was the musical director of the band, and, man, we got so involved, he gave them the cue to take it out. It got too hot! Tito was my buddy. We knew each other from the late ’40s.