Roy (bam-biddl'dee-BOOM) Haynes

The first thing that strikes you about A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story—a 3-CD (plus a bonus DVD) box-set that spans the career of drummer Roy Haynes—is just how wide and varied a span it is. It opens in 1949, with Haynes as a sideman to Lester Young, proceeds to sessions with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat Adderley; moves into ‘60s avant-modernism with John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill, and Chick Corea; and cruises into the ‘70s and beyond (he is still very active at age 82) with bands under his own leadership.

The collection (on the Dreyfus Jazz label) may seem like a random jazz miscellany, but there is a unifying thread here—and it’s Haynes. He started as a swing drummer, and in a fundamental way, he’s remained one. Coltrane spoke of Haynes’ “spreading, permeating” the rhythm; and all these jazz legends sounded different when Haynes sat in—looser, airier, freer to stretch out on a chord and to explore tonal colors. (Compare Trane’s performance of “My Favorite Things” at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival, on Disc 2, with his studio recording of the song backed by Elvin Jones. Jones is like thunder, Haynes more like lightning. Neither is better, just different, each carving out a set of distinctly swerving paths.)

Through the three boxes, we hear Haynes himself evolving, especially in the ‘60s with Hill and McLean, whose dark chords and jagged cadences inspire him to expand his repertoire of rhythms and counter-rhythms. Things take a dive at the start of Disc 3, when, like many others, Haynes succumbed to funk-fusion (which, in its cruder forms, did to jazz what paisley and bell bottoms did to fashion). The spirit's restored toward the end of the disc, when he heads back to standards and leads bands with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, and Kenny Garrett. I should add, though, that 21st-century Haynes can best be heard elsewhere, on the 2003 Love Letters on the Japanese 88s label (available on SACD and LP from Acoustic Sounds), which includes Holland, Kenny Barron, Joshua Redman, and John Scofield, among other notables.

Which only goes to confirm what I wrote last month about Sonny Rollins’ recent concert at Carnegie Hall. (The magnificent first half was a trio set with Roy Haynes and Christian McBride, the doleful second half a set with his no-better-than-adequate regular band.) Even the best musicians—and Rollins and Haynes are among the very best in jazz—are more inspired, and play better, when they’re playing with their peers.

Bill Metcalfe's picture

This CD is a thrilling convergence for me because in the 60's I was, like everyone else I knew, into the new folk and rock of the day, but also, like not many others, into the new jazz, which included Hancock and Shorter. I saw Cohen in one of his first live performances as a singer, and knew about Joni when she was maybe 18-- these things were possible because I am a Canadian and so are Joni and Cohen, and they got their start here. So in addition to the convergence of several of my heroes (including Holland, too), this CD is a nice Canada-U.S.event.My only disagreement with this review is that I like Leonard Cohen's contribution to it. Joni's Jungle Line lyrics are a match for most of Cohen's own lyrics, and they even sound like he could have written them, so it works well. He doesn't croak,he's just got a deep voice and he's an old man now. The Shorter-Mitchell collaboration over the past 20 years on Mitchell's CDs is a miracle not much noticed. He's beautiful on

manny ramirez's picture

How many times can you put the word "I" into a blog?

Tony T.'s picture

Jack DeJohnette, the greatest living Jazz drummer, has won the 72nd Down Beat Readers Poll. He is back on top where he belongs, at 561 votes. Max Roach at 292 votes and Roy Haynes at 276. Get hip, Fred!

Hediye's picture

thanks good

fdgdh's picture

ell's CDs is a miracle not much noticed. He's beautiful on