Interview:Sound of Surprise

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Part 4

Part 5

Part 6




Roy Haynes:

Sound of Surprise


Part 1: What to Practice/Meeting Your Heroes/Time Conception


When Roy Haynes plays, years of experience inform every authoritative stroke. A working musician since 1942, Haynes' unrelenting swing and crackling sound of surprise has graced the bands of a who's who list of jazz innovators across a wide spectrum of improvisation. Always emphatically in the moment, Haynes absorbed the time-breaking innovations of drummers like Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey and Max Roach, developing a concept of "spreading the time" that incorporates the entire drumset into the rhythmic flow, which has influenced modern drummers like Tony Williams and Jeff Watts.


One of the last living masters to have played with many jazz greats, Haynes illustrious career includes long stints with Lester Young, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. He's been an active bandleader from the late '50s to the present, and is a perpetual top-three drummer in the Downbeat Readers Poll Awards. In 1996 Haynes received the prestigious French Chevalier des L'Ordres Artes et des Lettres.


Haynes' 2000 album, The Roy Haynes Trio, showcases Panamanian piano virtuoso Danilo Perez and bass giant John Patitucci. The 75-year-old master attacks ten tunes -- each referring directly to his glorious legacy while adhering firmly to Charlie Parker's credo "now is the time" -- with a vigorous imagination that forces his young cohorts to exert every ounce of creative energy not to be left in the dust. Haynes is the ultimate drum improviser, constantly reaching for something he hasn't heard before, surprising himself with every stroke. Do you still practice. And if you do still practice, what do you practice?


Roy 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. That's my practice. 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. I've got my own rudiments. I never learned that even hand stuff. I tried it; I was never good at it. 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 [Roach] when he came through with Benny Carter, but I caught him, and I had the records he was on with Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy [Gillespie] 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. You've 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 [Count] 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! How does your current band facilitate your drumming 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!


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