It’s taken the jazz community nearly half a century to catch up with the inventive and super-hip stylings of Roy Haynes — the oft-proclaimed “father of modern drumming.” Nowadays, you don’t have to look too hard to spot Haynes’ influence on today’s most prominent post-bop heroes. From the fully integrated left foot of Bill Stewart, to the interactive snare work and broken ride patterns of Nasheet Waits and Eric Harland, to the supremely melodic soloing of Ari Hoenig, almost every current jazz drummer on the scene has borrowed at least one trick from Roy’s bag. (You can also spot his influence on an earlier generation of innovators, like Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Louis Hayes, and Mickey Roker.)
But it’s not just drummers who’ve tapped into Haynes’ bubbling pool of rhythm. In recent years, Roy has appeared on records with artists like pianists Kenny Barron and Chick Corea, vibraphonist Gary Burton, and guitarist Pat Metheny. He’s also been regularly cutting award-winning discs under his own name. However, to get a true grasp on how prolific this spry drummer has been, dig a few decades back and you’ll discover that he’s played with just about everyone. When he moved to New York City from his hometown of Boston in 1945, Roy worked with Luis Russell for two years before landing a breakthrough gig with tenor sax hero Lester Young. Haynes then spent several years in the clubs of 52nd Street, injecting his forward-thinking swing with a variety of artists—like Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins—before embarking on an extended run with vocalist Sarah Vaughan in 1953. In the latter part of the ’50s, Haynes reasserted himself in the instrumental world with a series of classic live recordings with Thelonious Monk, as well as his first solo record, We Three.
In the ’60s, Haynes tapped into the “New Thing,” appearing on several challenging pre–avant-garde records with saxophone virtuoso Eric Dolphy, as well as on the widely popular Blues And The Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson. Then Haynes really let it all hang out when he regularly subbed for Elvin Jones with The John Coltrane Quartet, starting in 1961. On those dates, Haynes matched Coltrane’s intensity with some of his most interactive, inspiring, and passionate playing on record.
From there, the credits kept mounting. Kenny Burrell, Andrew Hill, Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, and countless others called on Haynes to bring his formidable skills to the studio in the ’60s and ’70s. One record of particular note, Chick Corea’s 1968 trio disc Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, is an absolute must-have. This album set a new standard for post-bop interactivity, with Haynes’ unexpected “snap, crackle” accompaniment and hip melodic soloing placed at the forefront. This is also the first record to feature Roy’s treasured flat ride sound.
Today, well into his eighties, Roy remains active with his Fountain Of Youth band. His solo, “Hippidy Hop,” from the live album Whereas, was even nominated for a Grammy in 2006.