Roy Haynes and Esperanza Spalding


Here’s a review of a Roy Haynes/Esperanza Spalding press conference at the Playboy Jazz conference. I think this was 2010. Dig the contrast.

Must have been a hundred reporters. First up was Roy Haynes, though.  What is he now, 85? He looked twenty years younger. Played twenty years younger than that. He ran that room, baby, made suckers out of the reporters, we were all laughing our heads off and recording every line, each a gem. A classic performance. Then he split to applause and in came Esperanza. The salty, hard bitten atmosphere dissipated instantly and it was almost church. We whispered. Reporters were afraid to ask anything for fear they’d bruise her. She looked so sweet, her voice was so sweet, there was so much innocence there we all stopped swearing. We knew it wasn’t real, that she couldn’t actually be a jazz musician and be that innocent. But on that off, off chance that just maybe it was, we lobbed soft questions and she answered them all, eyes sparkling.


Roy Haynes


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.

Kevin Kanner


Ran into Kevin Kanner last nite. Apparently he’s in town for a brief spell. We reminisced and bitched and told stories you don’t repeat. That guy is such a great jazz drummer. And I mean jazz drummer. You could drop him into a Blue Note session two generations ago and he would swing those mothers like mad. He’s just got that thing, that blues thing, deep down, that goes back all the way to the beginning. He could play with Louis Armstrong in Chicago, I think, or with Lester Young in Kansas City. He could fill in for Jimmy Cobb or Tootie Heath or Art Taylor–especially Art Taylor–in a hard bop New York City. He wouldn’t play like them, he wouldn’t copy them–that’s not what jazz is about, mimicry–but he sure the hell could sit in when they had to sit out for some jazz player’s reason or another, better left unsaid. He could sit in and swing, really swing, and the cats would turn around and nod, just nod, and he’d know he was in the groove, in the pocket, solid. That’s Kevin Kanner. He’s back in New York City now, where his playing always fits in somewhere, uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, wherever the music is cooking. He’s doing well, since he plays more like a New York drummer, and less like one of our own. The players swing back there and experiment out here. Well they experiment back there too, obviously (that’s where it started!), but they also swing hard, way hard, which seems passé among the new jazz generation in L.A. The state of the art here in downtown is just that, art, which is kind of ironic since swinging Kevin Kanner pretty much kickstarted the whole scene when he brought his weekly jam session east from the Mint. It grew and grew into something world class out here, that Blue Whale scene, daring and innovative and full of everything but the old school. Everything but the blues. What would Ray Brown say? Kanner asked once, and apparently Ray Brown would have said go to New York. Which he did. Other drummers, like Zach Harmon and Dan Schnelle and Tina Raymond, filled in nicely and were more attuned to the new vibe. They can be wild or textured or subtle or ethnic and in Harmon’s case especially, absolutely brilliant. They can switch time like you or I switch socks. Which wasn’t Kevin’s thing. Not at all.

I miss him out here, not just because he’s such a swell cat but because when he was behind the kit you’d have no worries at all that this shit was gonna lag, gonna stumble, gonna transform into crazy meters and advanced music theory. No, it’ll just be jazz. That’s all. Just jazz. That’s Kevin Kanner. Just jazz.