Roy Haynes, Birthday Boy!

The wondrous Roy Haynes celebrates his 90th birthday tonight with a blast at the Blue Note. It’s a trio with Christian McBride and Pat Metheny, but it’s that snare that will be the real star. 

Been blabbing about the maestro for years in the VOICE. Here are a few chestnuts.

2004 – Animation and panache have always been his goals. Working toward them, jazz’s most virile septuagenarian lets his instrument’s personality coincide with his own. The dapper splash and stylish thud of his drums are metaphors for a certain way to live: with flash, with fortitude, with fire. You can hear it all over Fountain of Youth, a new live date that’s one-third Monk tunes and two-thirds hard bop heaven.

2005 – His version of modern hard bop has “clobberin’ time” attached to it, but it’s the level of finesse you’ll recall as you stroll home. The 80-year-old drummer plays with youthful upstarts who please him by showing off their individualism.

2008 – If you’re feeling sluggish, the 80something fireball will light yr ass up real nice. Behind that trap set, with cymbals splashing and toms thudding, the drummer chops rhythms with the precision of a sushi chef. Meaning his sense of swing is equal to his sense of flash. The youngins that he’s constantly schooling include alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, who went on a very convincing expressionistic spree last Friday at the Jazz Gallery.

2010 – The drummer boasts obvious vitality, but it’s the nuance central to his muscular moves that really lift his music. He chops at traditional grooves until they no longer sound shopworn, and sustains a pulse that keeps swingin’. He peppers his youthful crew with all sorts of interrogations, demanding they think on their feet and dodge predictable tropes with the same verve he exhibits. Not bad for an 85-year-old. As Sonny Rollins recently put it, “Roy is incomprehensible.”

2012 – You always figure he’s going to start to wind down, but the ever-virile drummer’s sense of attack is relentless. Perpetual oomph could be a mere parlor trick, of course; what truly keeps the iconic drummer’s audience enraptured is the nuance guiding his work. In Haynesville, finesse always trumps fury.


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