Sometimes it seems as though modern jazz history has been conducted by the sticks of drummer Roy Haynes. Still swinging fiercely and crisply at age 86, he’s been a paragon of expert timekeeping for a virtual encyclopedia of jazz greats, including Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Miles Davis . . . well, you get the idea. Haynes is interviewed by fellow drummer Tim Daisy, a mainstay of Chicago’s free-jazz scene who plays in numerous groups, from his chamber trio Vox Arcana to hard-charging combos like the Engines, the Rempis Percussion Quartet, and Arrive. Roy Haynes plays Symphony Center on Fri 12/9 (see page B11), and Tim Daisy plays with San Francisco trumpeter Darren Johnston at Elastic on Thu 12/15. —Peter Margasak
You are among the most recorded drummers in the history of music, with a career spanning more than 60 years. You’ve performed with an astonishing number of musical innovators across a wide spectrum of improvisation. How have you been able to maintain a high level of creative energy on the drums throughout your career? Thank you for the compliment; it feels good to hear that now. I’ve been playing since I was a teenager. I’m now a teenager. It feels good! What can I say? I’m thankful.
What are some of the ways Papa Jo Jones has influenced your work? That’s gonna take me back a long time. When I was a teenager and I was checking out the Basie band and listening to this great man on the drums, he influenced me a lot—for one thing, that swing thing, which they told me I had when I was very young. I had that feeling to play like that anyhow. Dang-dee da-dang-dee da-dang-dee da-dang, that type of thing.
Throughout your career, were there any bass players that really stood out, who you felt you had a special connection with? Name a couple of them, bring me back.
Paul Chambers. Yes, yes. He had that thing, that thing that I like. He was definitely on top of that.
Larry Ridley. We had played together a lot early. Paul died at a very young age. You named Paul and then Larry; you should go to Larry then go to Paul.
You played with Ron Carter quite a bit. Yeah, I did a bit with Ron. That was also something to have been very happy about.
Out of all the many fantastic pianists that you’ve played with and recorded with, two are perhaps the most legendary: Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Each one of them has instantly recognizable sounds yet they were quite different players. What was it like working with these two giants? Bud and I were the same age, so we had that. Monk was a little older than me, a little before me, but that hasn’t that much to do with who you enjoyed playing with. I enjoyed both of them. Bud, I wish he was around longer. I’m very fortunate to still be around playing. Most of the people you named have left. But the beat goes on.
You did a lot of recordings with Eric Dolphy. Eric, he loved Charlie Parker, but I guess I was closer to Charlie Parker than Eric Dolphy. He was much younger. You’re talking about a genius, Charlie Parker, man. He was to me more of a genius than probably any other saxophone player that I can think of offhand. We can just leave it there.