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Interviews

Louis Hayes

By Published: September 25, 2005
LH: Yes, exactly. It keeps me feeling good...Now, it's even more of a problem because of the traveling. I used to travel with my drums and I don't really do that anymore. Only thing I take out with me now are my cymbals and snare drum and sometimes I don't even take the snare because of traveling on planes and going through all the hassles. It's too much of a problem, plus I don't feel like carrying those drums and setting them up anymore. Even when I'm (playing) here (in New York)...I have a guy who comes in and takes them and sets them up. I just play. Then he takes them down, puts them in the ride and I'm (off to) home. That way I don't have to do it anymore.

AAJ: You've done a lot of Europe. You've played the Orient, too?

LH: Yes. Japan, I was there. The first time was in '63 with Cannon. And then I was over there—though never with my group—a few times with Oscar Peterson and McCoy. And when Art Blakey wasn't well and was just getting ready to go over to the other side, he had this tour set up to go over but couldn't make it. So I spoke to time on the phone and he asked me, "Louis, you go and take the group over . And that's what happened. So that was very interesting that time. They asked me to come back and do it again.

AAJ: I've often wondered whether there is any kind of difference in the responsiveness of the Oriental audiences and the European audiences. Do they respond differently? They both obviously love jazz.

LH: I would say when I first started going to Europe—maybe '57/'58 with Horace—the audiences were fantastic. You'd get off the stage sometimes and you'd have to run to the dressing room. It changed. They appreciate the art form but there's a big difference with the fact that so many guys started going over. And Japan, when I first went there that was brand new because no one had been over there, except Art Blakey I think. But we were the first ones to record over there. So it was a big difference. Ladies were still wearing kimonos...But everything changes.

AAJ: The other thing in the Orient not just Japan—in like Shanghai and now people are going into Beijing and doing jazz—they want you out there for months. You don't go out there for a week and then go home.

LH: Yes. Well, I was only in Hong Kong once and that was with Oscar. But I've never experienced those other places. I would like to go certain places if was my wife was going to come with me. I don't want to go anyplace away from home and stay for months—it's too long. I had a group once and we went to Europe, I remember (saxophonist) Gary Bartz and myself, for six weeks. Oh, that was rough. So I prefer at this point not to go and stay at these places that long. I just don't like being out of town that long. I used to see Duke's band. I mean, they'd go out six months. I remember Paul Gonsalves told me one time—he said he came out and there was nothing there but the shelves. He got there, his wife was gone, all the furniture. Nothing. You have to love it and really be into it to go out and stay for long periods of time like that. That's your whole life.

AAJ: It's hard on the women. The guys you were playing and coming up with were always on the road.

LH: With Cannon we traveled pretty good but he wasn't married a good part of that time. Nat was, but Cannon wasn't. I got married too young the first time, so I was married some of it.

AAJ: I wanted to ask you because I've run into this funny thing about people calling jazz, "jazz , when it isn't jazz. How do you feel about that?

LH: Yes. Well, it's to the point where people don't know what this art form is anymore. At one point you knew what direction you were going in if you played this art form. Sometimes there was a little difference between the east coast and the west coast, but other than that when they started giving it all these different names—fusion and now it's to the point where like this "smooth jazz it's not what I would call this art form.

A lot of times people come to me and they say, "This is the first time I've heard real jazz . It happened recently. It's caused me problems sometimes while working, but I've always tried to play what I want to play because I'm comfortable doing this, and this is the reason I got into this art form in the first place. I have a problem playing any other way anyway. I've always played this art form the way I hear it and the musicians, the artists, that I've surrounded myself with—whether they were older or younger—and they've always felt the same way. So we've always just played straight ahead in dealing with this art form on the highest level that we could.

AAJ: How do you feel about some of the younger people coming up?


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