March 9, 2006


Listening With: Roy Haynes: Attention Getter, on the Beat and Off (BEN RATLIFF, 3/10/06, NY Times)

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. [...]

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. [...]

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. [...]

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. [...]

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.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2006 11:55 PM

I've had the pleasure of hearing Haynes live 4 or 5 times in the last couple of years. The power and precision, and subtlety and swing, of his drumming is remarkable for a man of any age.

As for his idol, Papa Jo Jones: I agree with Haynes that there has never beem a tastier, sweeter swinging drummer. A few recommendations of Jones's playing: his mid 30's-early 40's recordings with Basie (on Columbia's multi-volume "The Count Basie Story"); his work on the 1939 Lionel Hampton session that included the tune "I'm in the Mood for Swing" (on any Hampton collection from that period); and Benny Carter's landmark "Further Definitions" album from 1961.

Posted by: Foos at March 11, 2006 11:10 PM