Roy Haynes is ninety years old today, still drumming, still funny as hell, still jazz as jazz can be. I’m reposting this one from a few years back.
(an email from 2006)
Saw Roy Haynes last night (4/6/06) at Catalina’s. Absolutely first rate jazz. Jaleel Shaw is a killer alto, some Jackie McLean edge to his tone. He also did a long drawn-out blues on his soprano that seemed to have the spirits of both Lucky Thompson and a down in the dumps Pee Wee Russell floating over the stage. The piano player was great, though his name utterly escapes me now (some reporter I’d make…)…there was a phenomenal “Green Chimneys” and while Haynes, bassist Dan Sullivan and Shaw played the introductory figure straight, the kid on piano did it in some kind of counterpoint that made the Monk even more Monk. And Haynes…man, that cat is 80 years old and plays literally better than most half his age. I mean that, literally. He was perfect. Drums can be godhead, and man, this reached it. He’s also funny as hell, strutting around out front playing his pair of sticks into the mic, a one man Rat Pack killing the room with wisecracks and heckling, demanding and getting a white Bacardi with a dash of soda, on ice, with a slice of lime. Looking maybe sixty, a really fit, lithe sixty at that. Good genes.
Dig this one. He’s there through Sunday. I am definitely gonna reprise this experience myself.
(and this is from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, 2007)
Last time brought his quartet into the Catalina Bar and Grill, every set was a sensation. The jazz was intense, be bop and hard bop and post bop and assorted off the wall takes. Alto player Jaleel Shaw burned in the spotlight, looking and sounding a lot like the horn players Haynes played with back in the day. And Haynes himself–his drums chops were so on, his patter so warm, his jokes and jibes and stories so damn entertaining you could not believe the man was 81 years old. Anyone over fifty in the audience felt old in comparison. Haynes has played with towering figures of jazz history—Prez and Bird and Monk and Trane and Getz and Miles among them—but Haynes himself is not just history. Not yet. The guy still dominates a room from behind that kit, driving his young quartet to make killer jazz music. Between solos he takes a breather now and then, goofing with the crowd, but then he is 82 now. If you are a jazz fan you must see Roy Haynes once before you die, because apparently he never will. (2007)
(And this too is excerpted from my LA Weekly column, 2009)
Roy Haynes is eighty three. Of course, that’s in Roy years…he’s about forty three in regular people years. How else can you explain this legendary octogenarian’s energy? This cat plays his ass off…but even more impressive, he makes the kids in his Fountain of Youth band play their asses off. If you’re looking for labels, the music they play is hard bop and post bop—which means that it’s equal parts hard grooving, wild soloing, and non-retro edgy—with plenty of space for the band to cook. Alto player Jaleel Shaw’s sound is NYC hard, so that even his gorgeous ballad passages have a diamond edge (think Jackie McLean). And Haynes demands and gets maximum dynamics out of pianist Martin Bejerano and just the right notes from bassist David Wong. And readers leery of paying big bucks for nostalgia, with dear old cats who ain’t what they used to be, should listen to Whereas, Roy’s live release from 2006. You’ll think you’re hearing tracks from the sixties but that was Roy Haynes, eighty one years young.
So it utterly mystifies all us here at the L.A. Weekly jazz bureau why the hell the house ain’t packed to the rafters when Roy Haynes is in town. As illustrated in his A Life In Time cd/dvd box set (on Dreyfus), Roy Haynes is a living, breathing, playing, still creative history of post-war jazz. Not only has he led some great sessions, but the man played with Monk (take Mysterioso) and subbing for Elvin Jones in Trane’s quintet (check out the bombs he’s dropping on “My Favorite Things” on Newport ‘63) and with Monk with Trane (At the Five Spot) and, oh man, Lester Young and Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and Fats Navarro and Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy (Out There) and Sarah Vaughan and everybody else (including last month with Phish; and see if you can find the clip of him with the Allman Brothers on “Afro Blue”). He’s all over the record collection of yours, tucked away in the credits and bashing and skittering and k-kicking, brushing and hinting, placing stunning rhythm intricacies here and perfect empty spaces there, driving and swinging and bloozing and dancing across that kit…. A pure be bop drummer. And live he spins stories and cracks wise and is a first rate showman. You really have to see Roy Haynes.