What a city I live in that I can on a whim go and see the finest drummer alive play a set and then hold a conversation afterwards. Let me tell you, Birdland playing Sarah Vaughan’s “Lullaby of Birdland” after every set has different feel to it when the man who created that drum solo that I can sing along with is staring you in the face. I started to sing along like I always do, and then realized I was looking him in the face! Quite something.
He hasn’t lost a damn thing. He’s 86, and he came on stage at 7:30 for an 8:30 set, tuning his drums and being generally social. He tuned every drum from both sides twice it seemed! The only person I’ve ever seen of that stature be on stage before call is Frank Morgan, before he died, and that was in Cleveland, not NYC. Can you imagine Wayne playing his own horn before a gig? How about Herbie checking his Fazioli when I saw him? Not going to happen. There are people to do that for them! Not to mention he’s got 15 years on them. He was not only on stage, but he wanted to PLAY! I can only hope that at that age I have half as much drive as he does.
Perhaps it’s because Roy is not a prima donna; he is a genius sideman. He is on a number of records that are legendary. His Coltrane sides are perennially in high demand, and difficult to find; Now He Sings is undoubtedly Chick’s most important record. Many would posit the five spot recordings as the most significant Monk recordings. He is on Eric Dolphy’s first record, along with Booker Little’s opus “Far Cry”. He has recorded with old guards Hank Jones and Lester Young. And don’t forget that famous title of “Bird’s favorite drummer”
His band is interesting to me: three young musicians who are also primarily sidemen, but have had this gig for almost ten years now. All badasses, to be sure, but not coming out of anything in common necessarily (watch out for Martin Bejerano. He’s got some kind of fire when he wants you to know it). I love it though, because they can play Roy’s music, which consists of any tunes that he’s played over the course of his life. He can play Trinkle-Tinkle, he did it with Coltrane. He can play He’s My Guy, he did it with Sarah. He can play Confirmation, he did it with Bird!
And that sound. For my money, the man has consistently had the best snare sound since Bebop started. There’s a reason they call him Cracklin’. He’s still got it at 86. You’re not expecting it, and then WHAP! That crisp sound that has lit a fire under many a soloist’s ass.
Stylistically, he’s my bag; what can I say. He keeps excellent company, too. Steve Lacy, Bud Powell, Bird, Monk, Jaki Byard, Eric Dolphy, Ron Carter, Hank Jones. These are my people. These are my people that some people don’t even listen to. Roy is on like 4 of my top played albums. He just sounds like himself and everything else falls together.
Unfortunately I missed the night before when Pat Metheney sat in with them(try seeing him in a club for a decent price…). In honor of the occasion, they played his tune for James Taylor, called “James”. I wasn’t familiar with it, but it was great to see such a tough assed band playing Pat’s uber-happy music. It was a good time, broken up by a ten minute exploratory drum solo by Roy. Again, this is his music. He’s played that tune with Pat forever, I’m sure.
Segue: Roy is on Road Shows 2, Sonny Rollins’ new record. Turns out that has the Ornette track on it? I should probably get that.
Double Segue: Sonny Rollins’ Kennedy Center award show is being broadcast on CBS on the 27th of Dec. I can’t see it, but I’ll kill someone(dealer’s choice) if they record it for me. Duo Herbie Hancock and Jim Hall playing Duke Ellington? Need. Must have.
The stakes have been raised(MASSIVE THANKS TO THE MAESTRO). Trio of Christmas posts coming up, followed by a little Bill Frisell and a million transcriptions off of my new crack album, the sextet of America, featuring John Lewis, Jim Hall, Benny Golson, and Eric Dolphy(!). Can’t stop listening to it. There’s also a great piano caper in it. I swear, one of the tracks isn’t John. We’ll figure it out together.
“62 years ago yesterday, in 1949 Birdland opened it’s doors for the first time. The opening musician was its namesake, Charlie Parker. In that band, was drummer Roy Haynes” —Roy’s introduction at Birdland (Serious!)