Courtesy of Roy Haynes

Dreyfus Records



It is difficult to th
ink of a person who Roy Haynes hasn't played with. The immortal John Coltrane, Haynes played with him. Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Stan Getz, done that. Sarah Vaughan, Roy was right there by her side for many years. I could go on and on, but my fingers hurt from typing on this laptop (damn Gateway). But far me it for me to tell you, I will let Mr. Royal of Haynes tell you himself, as we spoke on the eve of the release of his latest recording for Verve, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let's start fro
m the beginning.

ROY HAYNES: I got started in Boston, Massachusetts when I was very young. I had a older brother that was born in Barbados, where my folks were from and he had a pair of drumsticks around the house and I remember picking up those drumsticks. Don't ask me what year it was or how old I was. I was very young, who knows maybe nine, seven, eight, or nine. And I had the feeling that I wanted to play. As I say then, I was just a natural player or a natural drummer.

FJ: A drummer once told me that the drums choose you.

ROY HAYNES: Yeah, I agree, but you must have heard somebody say that that was much older because it's different these days. Kids think they can play or just want to learn how to play and before you know it, they are professional. They got a record contract already. That is not necessarily just on drums, but on a lot of instruments. So it is different these days than it was a long time ago. A lot of the drummers that were around when I started, they were just natural players, seemingly to me, including people like Buddy Rich, Jo Jones, Shadow Wilson. I don't want to just name a few. I don't want to name a hundred neither.

FJ: Let's touch on some of the personalities that you have worked with who are nothing short of legends, your thoughts on Lester Young.

ROY HAYNES: I joined Lester, his nickname was Prez, for President. I joined Lester, I think it was around October of 1947 in New York at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. That's the same place I had joined a big band. Luis Russell, who had sent for me from Boston to come to New York. Anyhow, I stayed with Lester from 1947 till 1949. And the only reason that I had left was because he had went to Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic. And naturally, he didn't take the band because that was like an all-star tour. After that, I got popular. I was working with Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and the list goes on and on.

FJ: Let's talk about Charlie Parker, there has been so much written about the man, your thoughts on Bird.

ROY HAYNES: I think Charlie Parker may have been one of the first geniuses that I have performed with for a long period. He was just an extraordinary gentleman. He was quite different. He wasn't always talking or teaching, but I guess every time he would put his horn in his mouth, it was a lesson right there. His way of life, except for his personal problems and things like that, he was a very interesting person.

FJ: You worked with Stan Getz, on and off, for an extensive period of time.

ROY HAYNES: You know, Fred, I was thinking about him for some reason earlier. What brought him to my mind was, yes, I started working with Stan Getz maybe late '49, or something like that, '50, and well, he had problems too (laughing). He had a lot of problems. He could be a sweetheart for ten minutes and he could be an asshole for the rest of the day (laughing).

FJ: You seemed to be able to cope with his dramatic mood swings, working with him throughout different periods of his career.

ROY HAYNES: Yeah, at different times, but I had some strange periods in there. We didn't get to fighting or anything, but his personality rubbed against mine or vice versa.

FJ: That kind of personality clash did not seem to have surfaced with your tenure as the drummer for Sarah Vaughan.

ROY HAYNES: When I was a teenager, when I played in Boston with bands, there were always vocalists. From the beginning, my first job, when I was still in high school was in Boston and there was a lady who was still around now. Her name is Mabel Robinson. They just recently had a tribute for her in Boston, just a matter of months ago and she sang and played the piano, so it was nothing new for me. I like singers anyhow. I was always into lyrics and songs. So that was really nothing new. To stay with a singer for the length of time I stayed with Sarah Vaughan, which was five years, it was great. Sarah was a genius in her right as well. She wasn't just a vocalist. She was a great musician.

FJ: And of course, many people know you from your work with John Coltrane. You appear on Trane's Dear Old Stockholm.

ROY HAYNES: John Coltrane, I could do almost anything that would come to my mind that I would think would fit with his music. Like things that I wouldn't have tried to do in the late Forties or Fifties, but when I played with John Coltrane it was in the Sixties and that was a great period. He was exploring musically and so it was an opening for me to say a lot of the things that I had always wanted to say and it seemed to work with John Coltrane.

FJ: Is there anyone you have not played with?

ROY HAYNES: I'm sure there are. I didn't play with Duke Ellington, but he did offer me a job with his band in 1952.

FJ: You turned it down?

ROY HAYNES: I did. We were playing at Carnegie Hall and Duke was the headliner and they had Charlie Parker there and that is who I was playing with. I had left the big band in 1947, just before I joined Lester Young and this new music was happening and I wanted to be with the smaller groups because you could express yourself more for a drummer. And then a lot of the older players, they were hard on drummers in the early days when I was coming up. So some of those guys were in Duke's band and I figured I would run into some problems so rather than mess up the name Roy Haynes, I stayed away from it and Duke Ellington always joked about that with me when I would see him. I was honored to have been asked to play with him. To me, that was a great thing in itself.

FJ: You have been careful not to tarnish the name Roy Haynes.

ROY HAYNES: I have never heard of it put that way. It does really feel good, yes, of course. It feels good when the way somebody will say your name or when your name comes up, somebody will rejoice. I remember one time, I was someplace and they said, "There is royalty in the house." It can be very inspiring. It feels good, of course.

FJ: Well, you are the Royal of Haynes.

ROY HAYNES: Being Roy Haynes is rewarding in it of itself. You know what I feel good about, Fred, to have lived this long and to be still playing the music, still innovating, still going places where people are so surprised. Like last week, I was in Wilmington, North Carolina and Fred, the people just went crazy. I was there with my original quartet and people went crazy. We couldn't get off. All the ladies, females, oh, man, it really feels good to have been around this long and to be still playing. It feels wonderful.

FJ: What has been the most memorable comment that has been made to Roy Haynes?

ROY HAYNES: Well, there are some that I can't even remember. When you get to this age, some things are in the back of your mind and they come up every now and then. Somebody had said once, they were talking about me and they were talking to me and I must have said, "Well, I'm not a household name." And then one gentleman said, "Yes, in my home, you are." I will never forget that. That was some years ago. To go all over the world and there is always somebody that knows about you that you haven't met and that loves your music and loves you already, that is a great reward in it of itself.

FJ: You were a recipient of the Danish Jazzpar Prize in 1994, a very prestigious award for an artist, which must have been quite a humbling experience.

ROY HAYNES: It certainly was. I'll tell you what, Fred, now that you mention that Danish award in 1994. I would have forgot what year it was. That was the greatest inspiration as far as getting an award so far in my career. What was so great about it was they were awarding people from different parts of the world, who they thought were not recognized enough. That in it of itself, you know, here at home, that had to happen to me in Europe. I was riding on a plane to someplace and my band was on the plane with me and my bass player was sitting behind me on the plane and he was reading the International Tribune and I think there is a column called "People's Column" in there and it said, "American drummer, Roy Haynes gets this award." It was so great because not only getting the reward, they did give me some money too, which also was great, but they advertised it all over the world. I got a award in Washington DC at the library or something, and I got awarded but nobody knew anything about it and it was in Washington DC, here in the United States of America, but it wasn't advertised and it wasn't a big thing. But here, go to a Scandinavian country and get this award, I think that was sort of a slap in the face for this country as far as Roy Haynes was concerned because I was kind of a big secret for many, many years.

FJ: The word has gotten out now.

ROY HAYNES: Well, not really a hundred percent because all the musicians know about me, certain jazz fans, but now it is becoming more worldwide and it is appreciated more, which makes me feel better.

FJ: Let's talk about your new album on Verve, The Roy Haynes Trio with Danilo Perez and John Patitucci.

ROY HAYNES: We had played together last year. In fact, we had played Carnegie Hall the year before. That was the first time and then we did some festivals throughout the world and everyone was saying it was so great and that you have to record. You have to record. It happened and it was Verve that did it. I had suggested, I usually like doing live things and we did half of it live in Boston at Scullers and the rest in the studio here in New York and I've been getting great feedback every place I've been. The record has only been out since the eighteenth and it was being played on the radio before.

FJ: In the previous conversations we have had, you have spoken of your distain for studio work.

ROY HAYNES: It is not that I really don't like it. It takes me a while to get comfortable in the studio. First of all, you are wearing those headphones, stuck back in a corner or in another room in this glass enclosure. It is a different thing and a lot of people love it and that is their thing, but I'm just an old time natural player. I got to hear those guys and be able to get some eye contact and feel the vibe so to speak, rather than it coming through a headphone. It takes me a while before I'm comfortable in a studio.

FJ: Are you still writing?

ROY HAYNES: I'm writing definitely, but not on paper (laughing). Why stop now?

FJ: At the conclusion of your career, what would kind of a legacy would you like to leave behind?

ROY HAYNES: For a while, a few years ago, I was saying that I was semi-retired. I was feeling good. I had dogs out here and I had tropical fish and I started working so much again after that, after a couple of years, that I had to get rid of all that stuff. I'd come home and the fish would be sick and the dogs would be in the kennels. I got rid of all of that and now I am just playing. I never wanted to be one of the guys that played, played, and played. You're on the road and then you die, but it looks like it may go down the same way. It looks like I may continue to play and play. I get so inspired and I guess that is part of my therapy at this point.

Fred Jung is Jazz Weekly's Editor-In-Chief and is the only person in the country that doesn't love Raymond. Comments?  Email Fred.