A Fireside Chat With Roy Haynes

AAJ Staff By

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This is my religion. I take long breaks now when I don?t perform and I am not myself when I am not performing.
In the seventy-eight years Roy Haynes has 'walked the earth' (obscure biblical Samuel L. Jackson reference), computers went from not being invented to being the size of a cafeteria to fitting in the palm of the human hand. Ford introduced the Thunderbird, discontinued the Thunderbird, and reintroduced the new Thunderbird. New York City went from being the jazz center of the world to becoming the center of the world. The Clippers moved from San Diego (where they were a crappy team) to Los Angeles (where they remain a crappy team), man walked on the moon, McDonalds served a billion people, fourteen Presidents have occupied the Oval Office, and bottle water sells for more per gallon than gasoline.

And although much has changed in the world, some things remain constant. Consistency, certainly, something fans of the drummer are familiar with. Not a month after celebrating his seventy-eighth birthday at the Blue Note in New York, Haynes releases his latest studio recording, Love Letters, featuring John Scofield, Josh Redman, Chris McBride, Dave Holland, and Kenny Barron. Yet another consistent recording in a career that is worthy of high praise. Ah, the Royal of Haynes, always smooth, ever as crisp, with a hint of bop, unedited and in his own words.

Fred Jung: What is your secret?

RH: I turned seventy-eight in March, Fred. The jazz encyclopedia has the wrong year and a lot of publications copy that. But I was born in 1925, March 13, Friday afternoon, two in the afternoon, my mother often told me. She said I was good luck for her [laughing].

FJ: Tell me about Love Letters.

RH: Oh, Love Letters, how about that? That was done last May. We were in the studio two days. Each group had a day, the group with Scofield and Dave Holland and Dave Kikoski. I think that was the second day. The first day was Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, and Kenny Barron. I really haven't listened to the record that much, but these guys are all great players.

I am in a very unique position here, Fred. It may sound like I am bragging, but so many people want to play with me, young and old, it has been and still is a beautiful career. John Scofield and I, I don't think we have been in the studio together and if we have played together at some point, it hasn't been much. He called me up one day and I sent him a copy of the record and he raved about it. One writer here in New York told my son, and this is a very critical guy and I was so surprised, that he loved this record.

So it feels good. I feel a good vibe about this record. It was made for Japanese people. They suggested different artists that I had on there. Joshua was one of mine and naturally, I love Dave Holland and Kikoski had been playing with me for, he says, fifteen years.

That wasn't my idea for the title. I was thinking more Irving Berlin's 'The Best Thing for You.' When we were in the studio, he was going to be a hundred years old around that same period and I always liked his writing. That was the title I was thinking of, The Best Thing for You, but after we decided to do 'Love Letters,' that was from an old movie (Haynes starts singing 'Love Letters'), the Japanese decided to call it that, Love Letters. I want to hear it on the radio. When I hear it on the radio, then I will go crazy [laughing].

FJ: Having had Kikoski in the band for so long, is it second nature now between the two of you?

RH: I don't know if I want to call it second nature, but maybe, maybe. He has his own projects that he has been doing. Plus, I have a new young band. We don't play together that often anymore, but when we do, our last gig was in Philadelphia. We played opposite the Health brothers with Birds of a Feather. It is almost like it is the first time when we play together. He has really listened to what I have been trying to do all of these years and he knows. I can depend on him for so much, even if I fuck up. Second nature, it could be.

FJ: Is the Birds of a Feather band still touring?

RH: Well, not really. We did a lot last year. In fact, my account was damn busy, I went to see him again yesterday. We went everywhere. And then these guys, they each have their own projects. Nicholas Payton has won Grammys. Kenny Garrett has a new record out. These guys are busy as hell. I was telling my agent that I didn't want to do too much and they already have gigs for next year with Birds of a Feather. I am not going to do too much. There is a lot of bookkeeping. These guys get tremendous salaries.

I guess I am not answering your question, Fred. I do that a lot. I guess I should run for President.

FJ: It sounds like you are tapering your touring schedule?

RH: We have a few things coming up in California, May 21 and 26. Other than that, I don't plan to do too much more.

FJ: Having played with a who's who, is there anyone left?


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