Roy Haynes

Contemporary Arts Center

November 13, 2004

I walked out of Roy Haynes' concert at the CAC Saturday night and didn't want to go anywhere else. I didn't want to stain the rest of the night after what I'd just experienced. The night was no longer an ending. It was a sparkling prelude. My feet were lighter, and I felt untouchable and careless as I walked towards Lee Circle.

I hadn't been to a jazz concert where the performer got a standing ovation before the end of a show. But, there we were, giving energy and love midway through the set to a man who was doing unbelievable things on the drums. How many times did I gasp and lose my breath, laugh at an impossibility, or just stare confused and whisper, "What the hell?" Many. At first, what Haynes was doing with his sticks on the ride and snare seemed subtle. "Alright, cool, I can dig that swingin' beat punctuated with swift and loud snare strikes." The normal positioning of his sticks tricked me and the crowd until how hard he was swinging was acknowledged by the audience's first whoop. I honed in and got it. He was accenting the snare in strange but improbably correct and beautiful places. Also, when not accenting, his loose left hand was laying low and playing so many notes--I don't know. It wasn't human. His arm and wrist should be examined by science. But, once again, it's really no mystery. It was the prideful, smiling ghost of practice.

By the time he was 22, Haynes amassed a resume that would have been worthy of his CAC appearance--Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Sarah Vaughn, Lester Young. But, he just kept going until he played with everybody--Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Ellington, Getz, Armstrong, Corea, Gillespie. At the concert, Haynes was 79 and said he was looking forward to turning 80 in March. While Max Roach needed help getting onstage at his 2001 Jazzfest performance, Haynes enjoyed leaving his drum stool between songs and strutting about. He had more vigor and attitude than twentysomethings I know. He was almost just as entertaining off the stool as he was on it. He's the kind of guy I imagine got or gets the girls with his confidence and attracts male friendships with his congenial attitude.

Haynes established a rapport with the audience from the get-go by acting flaberghasted at the praise-drenched introduction given him. That's when he said he was gonna have to live up to it, and he sure did. Not without help from his band, though. Tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland was good, but bassist John Sullivan and pianist Martin Bejerano impressed me and Haynes to the point that he affirmed their talent with Gospel-like whoops and a "Go on!" Bejerano was like whoah with his virtuostic progressions.

The band played bop and hard-bop, but they also turned in contemplative, spiritual, slow burners that could transform into platforms for Haynes' wonderful meanderings. He moved in, with, and around the song's rhythm, but his strange drum and cymbal progressions made it seem like he shouldn't have been able to. He hit the drums so hard. He was fearless. He used monster flams, and the way he moved back and forth between cymbals was rock-like.

Haynes, dressed in a red and white striped shirt that complented his flair, took the mic in between songs and rapped with the audience. He said he didn't feel like playing earlier that night, that he was in a strange place. He complemented the audience and said the love they gave him made him want to play more. That's when everyone clapped maniacally. No one wanted it to be over. But, then Haynes explained. He didn't mean that it made him want to play more tonight, which he did anyway. The concert made him want to know more, to do more on the drums, to get into it. This unexpendable curiosity is probably one of the reasons Haynes is still around. Haynes went on to say that the drums had kicked his ass a little bit but that he had kicked more ass. He accentuated this last sentence by striking the front of his kick drum with his two sticks.

Haynes was a minimalist in a strange way. He didn't mind the band playing without him, and at one point, he got up and roamed around from one band member to another, keeping the song's beat the whole time with two sticks. Then, Haynes really showed his talent. He kept the speed of the beat but took the amplitude of the song down until he was barely tapping the sticks. It was a clinic in control.

Just when I thought Haynes wouldn't show any mastery on the toms, he ended his last song with an amazing amount of rolls. Sick. Haynes hit the last note and accented his performance by jumping off his throne and walking away from the audience holding the sticks behind his neck perpendicular to his body. Wow.

*Photo accompanying this review was provided by Dreyfous Records.

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