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A Fireside Chat With Roy Haynes

By Published: November 29, 2003

RH: There may be somebody. I never did much with Ornette. I don't know if that would work because he is really not active. My concept has always been that people really have to understand what I am trying to do, those who are on the bandstand with me because everybody can't deal with it or don't want to deal with it. Years ago, when I played with people like Getz and I would make certain record dates, I would play to complement the artist that I was playing with, rather than putting everything that would come to my mind.

These days, I am much older and with my own projects, I do what I want to do, when I want to do. I do anything and evidently that has worked. Evidently, there is a market for it because every place I have played, there may be a young lady who is not familiar with this type of music that will fall in love with it. That is a good sign because people try and say that you can't market this or you can't market that. There is a way that a lot of things can be done, and that is one of the things that has kept me out here this length of time is my concept of the music.

FJ: I said this last time we spoke, but congratulations again on being awarded the Danish Jazzpar prize. It is a tremendous honor.

RH: Oh, thank you, Fred. That is one of the biggest things that happened and was sort of a slap in the face to my dear country here. They gave me some money and the publicity that came from that was so great. I think I told you this, but I was traveling in Europe on a plane with my young band at the time. I think it was Kikoski and probably Ralph Moore, no, Handy. I forget Handy's first name.

FH: Craig.

RH: Yes, and a man sitting behind me is reading the paper and he is reading names like Margaret Thatcher and Hemingway and he comes to Boston drummer Roy Haynes. It described that I won this prize. That was a thrill, very big time.

I got another one here in this country that is a big secret, in Washington at the Smithsonian. People had black tie on and it was no big deal. It was nothing. I never heard anything about it. Benny Carter, myself, and a local guitarist that was in a wheelchair, dying of cancer, the three of us got this particular award. It was at the Smithsonian and nobody knew anything about it.

That was some years ago because I remember Benny Carter was going to perform with a big band and after he got through rehearsing. He grabbed me by the arm and we're crossing the street. This guy was eighty then. I said, 'Where do this guy get the fucking energy?' He always wanted to play with me. He said, 'When are we going to play together?' He said it that day.

It is great. This is my religion. I take long breaks now when I don't perform and I am not myself when I am not performing.

FJ: How do the hours pass?

RH: I have three children and five or six grandchildren. I have a lot of friends. I have automobiles, several. I have a house in Vegas that I have had for about a year and a half. I go there and just hang out. The weather is nice. Sometimes, it gets too damn hot. I had a little money invested and took it out just before 9/11 for that purpose, to buy a house, cash. I have a couple of houses here. In fact, today in an hour or so, somebody is coming to walk through this house. It is in contract. I was supposed to have a closing tomorrow on this house that I have lived in for twenty-three years.

I am always busy with a lot of stuff. I used to have dogs until I started going on the road a lot. I liked building things. Even as a kid, I was always building cars. I like building things around the house and in the backyard. How does the song go, 'I've had a few.' What's the line before that?

FJ: Regrets.

RH: Regrets, exactly. I have my regrets. As they say, 'Keep on trucking.'

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