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Yoshi's Oakland

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5:30pm to 9:00pm

5:30pm to 10:00pm

5:00PM to 9:00PM
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Yoshi's Oakland
510 Embarcadero West
Jack London Square
Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: 510.238.9200

press reviews

Haynes, the elder statesman of jazz, plays Yoshi's first S.F. show
by Lee Hildebrand
SF Chronicle

Haynes, the elder statesman of jazz, plays Yoshi's first S.F. show

Monday, November 26, 2007


It's hard to name a major musician that Roy Haynes hasn't worked with in his more than six decades as one of the most in-demand drummers in jazz. "A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story," a three-CD, one-DVD career retrospective issued last month by Dreyfus Jazz, compiles his work as a sideman with such greats as Lester Young, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane and Chick Corea, along with a dozen tracks featuring Haynes' own groups. Unfortunately, there were no recordings made during the week in 1946 when he toured the South with Louis Armstrong or the several times he subbed for Count Basie's drummer.

Haynes also did gigs with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and once jammed with Ornette Coleman, but he never played with Duke Ellington - not that he wasn't asked.

"When Louie Bellson married Pearl Bailey, he was with Duke Ellington," Haynes, 82, says by phone from his home in Long Island. "He was leaving the band to go to Europe for a honeymoon, and Duke asked me to replace him with the band."

Although noted for his versatility, the Boston-bred musician didn't feel his style would quite fit Ellington's and turned down the bandleader's 1953 offer. "For the drummer in those days with a big band," he explains, "the first thing was to be connected with the lead trumpet player. Because of the concept that I had and the way I was playing, I knew I would have had problems, especially with the brass section. I didn't want to go in there and mess up anybody's head or have to get my head messed up. I knew better."

Asked if there is any musician he regrets never having played with, Haynes says, "I can't think of anyone." After a pause, he adds, "I was asked the question the other day, 'Who would I like to play with?' I said, 'What's that guy's name?' I don't want to call him a hillbilly. I think he got busted smoking all that weed."

"Willie Nelson?' the drummer is asked.

"Yeah," Haynes responds. "He plays Vegas periodically, and I have a house in Vegas."

Gary Burton thinks Haynes and Nelson would make a fine musical match. The vibraharpist first worked with Haynes in the Stan Getz Quartet in the mid-1960s, employed him in his own proto-fusion combo for two years in the late '60s and has collaborated with him on various projects ever since. Burton and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane will be guests with Haynes' specially assembled Birds of a Feather band Wednesday at the grand opening of the new San Francisco club Yoshi's. Without Burton and Coltrane, the all-star group - Haynes, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, pianist David Kikoski and bassist John Patitucci - then moves across to the bay to perform Thursday through Sunday at Yoshi's in Oakland.

"Roy's got a way of playing that seems to just fit in every situation," Burton, 64, says by phone following a gig with his own group in Helsinki, Finland. "I notice he doesn't change what he plays. A typical, very versatile drummer like Steve Gadd or Peter Erskine can play any style, from rock to jazz, and they have a different way of playing for every genre. Roy, on the other hand, does what Roy does, and it seems to fit, whether he was playing with Charlie Parker or Lester Young or Coltrane or Miles or Chick or Pat Metheny. Those of us who are friends of Roy and have played with him for years often talk about it, how it's interesting that what he does seems to be so universally blending in with whatever the musical situation is. It's kind of a marvel, and now he's like this walking history of jazz for the last almost three quarters of a century."

After leaving Burton's group in 1969, Haynes began leading his own band, called the Hip Ensemble. He found, however, that being a leader was tougher than working as a sideman.

"We had gigs all through Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago," he says of the Hip Ensemble. "I was booking myself everywhere. I didn't have no agent. I was doing it all, and driving to a lot of the gigs, too."

With his current quartet, the Fountain of Youth band, Haynes lets his booking agency handle the logistics. "I'm my own manager, but they're managing a lot of the stuff with my band and with the flights and where they are and when they're gonna meet," he explains. "I don't have no worries. I don't have no headaches."

Besides being one of the most widely respected drummers in jazz, Haynes has long been among its best-dressed men. He and Miles Davis once shared the same tailor, and both were featured, along with Fred Astaire and Walter Pidgeon, in an early '60s Esquire magazine article titled "The Art of Wearing Clothes." These days, he favors custom-made shirts with bright stripes and snakeskin cowboy boots or loafers.

Age has not diminished Haynes' rapid-fire drum technique, long referred to by fellow musicians as "snap crackle" because of the way his syncopations on a high-pitched snare drum dance around his propulsive cymbal patterns.

"I got a different kind of chops," he says of his technique. "It don't come from sounding rudimental or making each stroke even. My concept is to swing, and once I get to swinging and the band is playing good and the soloists are playing good, things come to me. I got a speed that's natural; it comes from my whole body, not just particularly my wrists.

"I don't know how I keep my chops up. I'd say I'm like a doctor. When a doctor's operating on you, he's practicing. I'm practicing when I'm on a gig. And I try to get some exercise, get some fresh air, breathe. I never did smoke. I started drinking probably when I was 30 or 35. I enjoy life, and that's how I keep my chops up.

"I've been playing professionally from the middle '40s till now," the drummer adds. "I'm still very active - hell of a leader, hell of a player."

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