Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Clip: Ben Ratliff Listening With Roy Haynes

Expand Messages
  • Carl Z.
    Listening With Roy Haynes: Attention Getter, on the Beat and Off By BEN RATLIFF Published: March 10,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2006

      Listening With
      Roy Haynes: Attention Getter, on the Beat and Off

      Published: March 10, 2006

      ON the wall of his wood-paneled basement in his suburban Long Island
      home, the drummer Roy Haynes has a large poster of his idol, the Count
      Basie-band drummer Jo Jones. In the picture, taken in 1940, Jones
      stands outside of a building in a hat, suit and full-length overcoat,
      holding a cymbal with his left hand and a brush with his right. The
      stance is all casual defiance: Jones's feet are spaced apart, his chin
      and his eyebrows are raised. "He was the man," Mr. Haynes said. "And
      he carried himself like that."

      A few summers ago Mr. Haynes invited four other drummers to his house
      in Baldwin, N.Y., where he lives alone. Mr. Haynes, Eddie Locke, Ben
      Riley, Louis Hayes and Jackie Williams ended up standing around the
      picture, drinking Champagne and talking about Papa Jo. More recently,
      early last month, Mr. Haynes had some visitors over to listen to CD's
      and talk about what he heard. Inevitably, Jones kept coming up.

      Jonathan Jones, who died in 1985, made the high-hat significant in
      articulating jazz rhythm, and it has ever been thus. He played
      authoritatively with brushes, not just on ballads. He snapped down his
      patterns with subtlety and force; he ploughed powerful grooves for a
      band. He didn't get involved in long solos; above all, he had
      vitality, magnetism. One learned just by watching him move around. He
      was confident, and inspired some fear. He was proud of his "kiddies,"
      the musicians he influenced. (He became known as Papa Jo in the late
      1950's, in part to distinguish him from Philly Joe Jones, Miles
      Davis's drummer.) Toward the end of his life, he liked to perform
      sections of concerts on the high-hat cymbal alone.

      Roy Haynes — who will celebrate his 81st birthday by leading his young
      band at the Village Vanguard from Tuesday to Sunday — never took a
      lesson from Jones. But Mr. Haynes has a whole area of technique around
      the high-hat, treating it as an instrument unto itself, building on
      Jones's principles. Really, he isolates every part of his drum kit in
      a similar way, letting it sing. He is naturally attention-getting,
      breaking up time, making his drum set react, hitting hard and then
      leaving space.

      A musician isn't only what he plays. Jones approved of Mr. Haynes for
      his self-possession, too. Mr. Haynes bought his first car in the
      summer of 1950, the same week Miles Davis did. "Young jazz musicians
      buying cars was not heard of," he said, proudly. "Let alone a supposed
      bebop drummer." He now owns four; one is a Bricklin, the rare car with
      gull-wing doors, manufactured for only two years, in the mid-70's. And
      he likes some crackle in his leisure. When he comes into Manhattan and
      he's not working, he said, he often rents a limousine. "I'm like a
      little kid. I'm so excited, man. I just party, enjoy." He bought a
      second house in Las Vegas in 2001; he travels there every few months,
      and goes out to clubs and restaurants with his friends.

      And the clothes. He often cites his inclusion in a list, created by
      Esquire magazine in 1960, of the best-dressed men in America. A
      musician in his 30's told me he met Mr. Haynes recently at the
      Vanguard. He mentioned to Mr. Haynes that he had just played there
      himself. "I was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, and my hair was
      dirty," he said. "Roy just looked me up and down. And then up, and
      then down again. He said, 'Huh.' "

      Jo Jones was the natural place to start, and other subjects flowed
      from him. At the top of Mr. Haynes's list was "The World Is Mad" by
      Count Basie from 1940, with Jones on drums. But since all CD's that
      include it have gone out of print, I brought instead a Basie box set
      called "America's No. 1 Band!" since it covers that same period.

      We listened to "Swing, Brother, Swing," which is about as good as
      American music gets. It comes from a radio broadcast in June 1937,
      recorded at the Savoy Ballroom in New York; it is the Basie orchestra
      with Jones on drums and Billie Holiday singing. The groove is vicious,
      menacing; as the band restrains itself for the first chorus and then
      gradually turns it on, the guitarist Freddie Green drives the rhythm,
      chunk-chunk-chunk, and Holiday phrases way behind the beat.

      "Ra-rin' to go, and there ain't nobody gonna hold me down," she sings.
      Mr. Haynes, wearing velvet pants and cowboy boots, sat on his
      living-room sofa and crouched close to hear the details. "Can I hear
      that little part again?" he said. "I thought I heard a cowbell."

      He did. Jones hits the cowbell three times at the start of the second
      chorus, linking the bars together. From that point the band surges a
      little, makes the song meaner. "Aaah-haaa!" Mr. Haynes hollered.

      "That's a hell of a one to start with, man," Mr. Haynes said, shaking
      his head. "If anybody wants to know what swing is, check that out.
      Damn! Everybody's in the pocket. You know, you just feel it: I see
      people dancing."

      Mr. Haynes played with the three greatest female singers in jazz:
      Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. His time with
      Holiday came during her last run at a club, at Storyville in Boston,
      in 1959. Late Holiday is different: it communicates frailty; it's not
      rhythmically invincible, like this. "But there were still nights when
      some of that feeling was there," he said.

      Mr. Haynes was born in Roxbury, Mass., where his parents had moved
      from Barbados; his father worked at Standard Oil in Boston. An older
      brother, Douglas Haynes, was a trumpet player who attended the New
      England Conservatory of Music in the late 1940's after his Army
      service; he traveled to New York when Roy was still in high school,
      and came to know musicians at the Savoy Ballroom. He introduced Roy to
      a number of them, including Papa Jo Jones, one night at the Southland
      Cafe, before Roy left Boston in 1945 for New York.

      Mr. Haynes's next choice was "Queer Street," again by Basie. "There
      was a White Tower, a hamburger joint, on Broadway and 47th Street," he
      remembered as the song played. "They had a jukebox there. I would put
      dimes in, and keep playing it over and over." What he wanted to hear,
      he said, was Shadow Wilson's complicated two-bar fill on the snare
      drum near the end of the song.

      Wilson later played more modern music, famously in a short-lived
      quartet with Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.

      "But I took him as a big-band drummer," Mr. Haynes said.

      Max Roach is two years older than Mr. Haynes; they were two of the
      important drummers in bebop's first wave. "When I heard Max the first
      time," Mr. Haynes remembered, "I said to myself, He loves Jo Jones

      We listened to Coleman Hawkins's recording of Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody
      'n' You," from February 1944, written by Gillespie. It is considered
      the first bebop recording session. Gillespie is in the group, and Max
      Roach is the drummer. "I was impressed," he said of Mr. Roach. "It was
      like he was talking to me."

      Mr. Haynes especially identified one detail: as Hawkins finishes his
      first solo in "Woody 'n You," Mr. Roach makes the final beat of the
      bar part of a figure that enjoins the bar with the next, and also the
      next chorus of the song. It breaks up the flow of time; it creates
      tension, and it stabilizes, too. Later in the song, during a trumpet
      solo, Mr. Roach thuds the bass drum, creating a single off-beat
      palpitation in the middle of a bar. "There," Mr. Haynes said.

      This was from when bebop was just beginning to take over, and Mr.
      Haynes was in the middle of its creation. He saw some older musicians'
      dissatisfaction with the way jazz was changing then — becoming more
      melodically fractured, more staccato, more drum-centered. But from
      1947 to 1949, Mr. Haynes played with Lester Young, the paradigmatic
      soloist of the period before bebop, and had no problem. "I had heard
      Lester didn't like people getting too involved," he said. "But he
      liked the way I was getting involved. I was dancing with him from up
      here," he said, holding his hand up at the level of his head — meaning
      the ride cymbal. "I was doing stuff with my left hand and right foot,
      too, but I was always feeding him that thing from up there. I was
      swinging with him. It wasn't particularly hard swinging; we were
      moving, you know, trying to paint a picture." Young approved.

      He did something similar with Coltrane, when he filled in for Elvin
      Jones in the John Coltrane Quartet from 1961 to 1965. After you become
      used to Jones's drumming in the Coltrane group, hearing Mr. Haynes is
      a revelation: since the emphasis pulls away from the bass drum and
      toward the snare and cymbals, you can suddenly hear the bass and piano

      It has become almost a cliché to compare Mr. Haynes's improvising to
      the sound of the timbales player in a Latin band, but Mr. Haynes has
      never talked much about Latin music. He had told me that he used to be
      friends with Ubaldo Nieto, the timbalero from Machito's orchestra. I
      suggested that we listen together to Machito's "Tanga," recorded at
      Birdland in 1951.

      This "Tanga" changes its atmosphere several times, through switches of
      key or tension building from different sections of the bandstand. Then
      suddenly the entire language alters. Cuban rhythm becomes swing; hear
      a drum kit and cymbals instead of conga and timbales, and Zoot Sims
      starts playing a tenor saxophone solo. Mr. Haynes confirmed that it
      was Nieto, changing over to a drum kit mid-song.

      "We were always playing opposite Machito in Birdland in those years,"
      he said. "And I always did like the sound of timbales, the approach.
      Sometimes when I'd play my solos, I'd approach the traps with that
      same effect, like when I hit rim shots." (A rim shot means hitting the
      head and the rim of the drum at the same time.) "Older gentlemen like
      Chick Webb and Papa Jo, they did rim shots too. But doing it with no
      snares on, with that tom-tom sort of Afro-Cuban feeling, I always
      liked that."

      Finally we listened to Vaughan singing "Lover Man," from 1945, with
      Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. (The drummer is Sid Catlett.) It
      is what Mr. Haynes called a walking ballad, not as extravagantly slow
      as the kind he had in mind, like the version he recorded with Vaughan
      in 1954.

      Mr. Haynes loved the five years he worked with Vaughan. She had
      impeccable timing, heard well enough to correct a bass player's chord
      changes and filled in on piano when necessary. She sang virtuosically
      onstage and hung out virtuosically with her band afterward. Mr. Haynes
      suffered his first hangover after going to an after-hours bar with
      her. (Philadelphia, 1953. Gordon's Gin.)

      "She sang some of the slowest ballads, probably, in the world," he
      said. "And in the 50's, we had bass players like Joe Benjamin. Bass
      players in those days had a way of letting the notes ring out. We
      don't get that with a lot of young bass players today. With drumming,
      there was an art to playing it and making it sustained, making it
      sound full with brushes. But you've got to have the right rhythm
      section to make it sound effective. And we did, every night. Moment by
      moment, there was always something musical happening. And during that
      period, man, her voice was ... mmm. Uncanny."

      He paused. "The memory of the whole time is cool. That was the first
      time I ever went to Europe. In Paris, we played with Coleman Hawkins
      and Illinois Jacquet on the same show. I backed up Coleman. And that
      was the first time I ever had my picture on the cover of a magazine.
      In Paris."
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.