I chatted with Roy Haynes 17 years ago, around the time When It Haynes, It Roars was released. “My band doesn’t work all that much,” he told me, “so even before we get on stage the excitement level is high on a night when we’re playing. When we actually start, it’s like a tiger that’s been locked in a closet; I’m ready. My problem is restraining myself, cooling out out until all the juices are flowing right. Then – watch out – I explode.”
During the chat, as I recall, the iconic drummer turned up his stereo full blast, started cackling, and gave me a taste of his forthcoming disc, Te Vou! “Is that the shit or what,” he queried proudly. “It’s got that smiling thing that Jo Jones had: he’d be up there smiling, chewing gum and kicking ass!If you’re looking to inspire people, always incorporate that smiling thing.”
I chatted again with Roy Haynes last September, on the first day of his being home after a substantial stretch of touring. Europe, West Coast – many weeks in a row were spent driving his Fountain of Youth band and energizing Chick Corea’s ensemble. “This is the busiest year of my career,” he said. “Moving constantly, always going. I wake up and say ‘Where am I.’ It’s getting to be a lot.”
The master percussionist turns 86 today. Seems like his art is getting more and more eloquent. Sonny Rollins certainly thinks so.
“Roy is a guy that’s almost incomprehensible,” says the saxophonist. “I look back at my relationship with him – he’s been out there so long, playing with everybody – an essential part of everything that’s happened. You don’t even have to think about the drums with Roy Haynes – he’s got it covered. He always fits in with the development of the music. He’ll do whatever needs to be done to make whatever music you’re playing sound good. ”
That kinda goes a long with another recollection the drummer conjured back in ’94. You’ve got to understand what situation you’re in,” he told me. “I remember working a gig with Stan Getz in L.A. before he had the bossa nova hits. John Coltrane was playing on the other side of town. It was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday with Trane, and then the weekend with Getz. I could have tried to do the same moves with both of them, but they wouldn’t have had the same meaning. Sometimes I came back to Getz really wanting to kick ass, but I eased up. You have to adapt.”
Happy Birthday, Haynes.