All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Interviews

Kevin Hays: Creative Flow

By Published: September 21, 2013
But for me it was playing with friends. Sean Smith coming over to the house—I met drummer Leon Parker
Leon Parker
Leon Parker
b.1965
drums
at a record store in White Plains, and then he would come over to the house and we would play. I was going to hear a lot of music in the city—not to sound stuck up about the New York thing, cause there are probably lots more scenes now then there ever were in other parts of the world.

GC: Maybe...

KH: Well, let's just take Europe for instance. Do you think 20, 25 years ago, you could perceive anywhere near the same kind of jazz experience that you have now? I don't think so... you didn't have the level of guys that could play. There were some, but it kind of exploded!

GC: A lot of those guys studied here.

KH: Yes, but they brought it back home. What I'm saying is that if you don't want to go to New York, you could go to Munich and there would be a scene there. That wasn't the case two decades ago.

GC: When did you start recording for Steeplechase?

KH: I actually did my first record in 1990 for a Japanese label before Steeplechase, a label called Jazz City. That CD was bought by Evidence years later. Then, 1991 through '93 I did three CDs for Steeplechase. Then I signed with Blue Note in 1993.

GC: I had all three of your Blue Note CDs. In reverse order, Andalucia, then Go Round, and then Seventh Sense. Which is your favorite?

KH: I don't know, I haven't listened to them in a while. I think they all had something. I think SeventhSense had a great vibe—the sound was great. It was great to play with Brian Blade
Brian Blade
Brian Blade
b.1970
drums
; there was something special about that one.

GC: I only played with Brian Blade a few times, but I think that it is easy to underestimate his playing.

KH: [Laughs].

GC: What I mean is, and with many jazz drummers, it's not a chopsfest.

KH: It's a musicfest!

GC: Right! It's about putting everything in the right place and his interpretation. You get the sense he has total commitment to the music.

KH: And the drama factor with Blade, he's got this simmering quality.

GC: And Billy Hart
Billy Hart
Billy Hart
b.1940
drums
on Go Round and Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
on Andalucia.

KH: I love playing with great drummers!

GC: And you worked a lot with Al Foster
Al Foster
Al Foster
b.1944
drums
and you played with Bill Stewart
Bill Stewart
Bill Stewart
b.1966
drums
. So the bar has been set pretty high for drummers. Did you ever play with Art Blakey?

KH: No, I never did. I'm not sure I would have fit in with that scene. I was a little freaked out by that whole thing. I didn't identify with playing with him.

GC: As opposed to Geoffrey Keezer
Geoffrey Keezer
Geoffrey Keezer
b.1970
keyboard
, who I think really fit that band.

KH:I did have a chance to play with Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
for a bit and also Joe Chambers
Joe Chambers
Joe Chambers
b.1942
drums
. The drummer thing in New York is a big thing. You get such an education with drummers.

GC: Do you think the fact that you played the drums when you were young helped you to play with these great drummers?

KH: Maybe...

GC: A lot of my students always ask, "How can I play and not turn the time around and keep the form?" and so forth. I always say, "Listen to the drums. Listen to their vocabulary. You can't just count."

KH: Hear the phrases. You have to take that leap of faith. Listen instead of count. It's weird, because lately I've been playing with Bill Stewart so much, but I've been playing with some different drummers lately, and I'm so used to Bill that it's weird. I've been playing with Jochen Rueckert and Rodney Green
Rodney Green
Rodney Green

drums
, some of the younger guys, and I find I have to get used to their phrasing so that I don't have to think about it too much. Playing with drummers—it's much more important to listen to their phrasing than to be uptight and worried about getting it wrong. It's not about not screwing up. It's about screwing up and learning from that. If you are too tight about it, it's no fun. Of course, this is years later talking about it! I'm talking from the experience of being uptight. I mean you don't want to get lost in the form when you are playing with Roy Haynes! [Laughs] Cause you might be lost for a while!

GC: I remember the first time I saw you play was at the Visiones jam session, which was led by Eddie Henderson. You were playing with Ed Howard
Ed Howard
Ed Howard

bass
on bass, Greg Bandy
Greg Bandy
Greg Bandy
b.1949
drums
on drums, Joe Locke
Joe Locke
Joe Locke
b.1959
vibraphone
on vibes, and I remember there was a tall female singer that sang. You guys played one of your hits, "El Gaucho" by Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, and then Eddie said, "I wanna change the color a little bit..." and then you and this singer did a duo, I don't remember what tune it was, but I remember being VERY intimidated and thinking "Man, I gotta learn how to comp like that!" Many that know you speak about your great comping, and it seems as though the people that hire you are sort of enamored with your comping, they continually hire you for that. Is it something that you could always do or did you study it?


comments powered by Disqus
Download jazz mp3 “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Kevin Hays