Louis Hayes

Marcia Hillman By

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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?

LH: Well, we have some great young artists coming up. People like Jeremy Pelt, the trumpet player and we have this other trumpet player from Pittsburgh named Sean Jones. I saw him the first time not that long ago at Dizzy's Club with the Heath Brothers. He's going to do some festivals with us coming up. And the drummer Nasheet Waits and his buddy, drummer Eric McPherson. They both impress me a lot. They're into it, they practice all the time. I used to practice all the time, too...

One drummer (the late) Tony Williams really impressed me. I first met him in Boston. Tony used to come from Boston and I lived in Brooklyn, just to hang out with me. Then Miles asked me about him and Tony went with Miles. We used to practice together. Tony Williams practiced more than John Coltrane. And John Coltrane practiced. When I lived in this area, Coltrane lived on 103rd and sometimes I would be in his apartment—he practiced more than anybody I've seen in my life, until Tony Williams who practiced so much he used to wear me out. It's really amazing how much he practiced. He practiced all day up until the job and then go play the job and come back at night and practice some more. Now that was one drummer that really impressed me.

AAJ: It often amazes me, as a general rule...the stamina that drummers have. I find that with a lot of drummers, as a rule -they've just got some kind of extra energy that other musicians don't have. What do you eat?

LH: I'll tell you what it comes from. You don't even think about it when you're in shape because you practice. I mean, sometimes, I practice now maybe 8 hours, maybe 9, maybe 5, maybe 6. But when you're used to doing it, stamina doesn't even play a part. I think the only difference I find within myself is when I was younger...up to I would say to about 40...if I didn't really warm up before I went to work, it really didn't bother me too much. But after about 40, I could tell, I started feeling and performing different. So I like to warm up before I start playing. I practice anyway but just before I go to a job, I like to warm up, get it together a little bit not just go cold like I used to. Hang out, drink and act silly—I don't do that anymore. That's the only difference. I still have pretty good stamina...'Cause one thing, you are the engine—you're playing through everything!

AAJ: You've been through a whole bunch of years of music and it never gets boring, does it?

LH: No, because it's always a challenge. Because depending on, what date you're playing, who you're playing with, the music you're making—it's a challenge, (and) you can't sound the same all the time. You never know how you're going to sound until you hit the stage and start playing, and I'm always a little tense sometimes before I start playing because of that. You don't know how your body is going to react. Once you start playing, you'll figure it out then. You know your body changes all the time...you can practice real good sometimes and it still just doesn't work right. Other times, you're right. No problem. You just have a great time.
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