Top 10 Favorite Roy Haynes Tracks

Any day that Roy Haynes continues to walk the earth is a gift to humanity, and this, his 94th birthday, is a particularly opportune time to acknowledge that. His innovation, creativity, and technical mastery would already put him on the short list of drummers who’ve walked the planet. Factor in his longevity and the correspondingly long and diverse list of vital artists with whom he has played and there is really no parallel that I can think of. That I came up with 10 favorite tracks this happening is one thing, but it’s just kind of ludicrous that I did so while neglecting several of the most seminal albums in jazz history (Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” Chick Corea’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” etc.) and other noteworthy music by Lester Young, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, and so on. So here are just a few tracks that I particularly enjoy, both in totality and as examples (covering a span of over 50 years) of the wonder of the drumming of Mr. Roy Haynes.

1 ) “52nd Street Theme” (from Blue Note sessions) by Bud Powell, recorded 1949

One of THE seminal bebop record dates of the 1940s, the visionary pianist/composer/bebop architect Bud Powell shows off his band of up-and-coming youngsters, including Sonny Rollins, Fats Navarro, Tommy Potter, and young Mr. Haynes, who drives this train immaculately and even gets in a little drum solo at the end.

2 ) “Shulie A Bop” from Swingin’ Easy by Sarah Vaughan, recorded 1954

(Boom) Roy (bap bap bap) Haynes. If that doesn’t immediately evoke anything, just listen to this track, which features some textbook Roy brushwork, and then we’ll talk.

3 ) “Evidence” from Thelonious In Action by Thelonious Monk, recorded 1958

A classic and somewhat underrated Monk ensemble is featured here, with Roy cracklin’ like only he can (fueling the melody, prodding the soloists, and playing a solo of his own) alongside Johnny Griffin and Ahmed Abdul-Malik.

4 ) “Sneakin’ Around” from We Three, recorded 1958

Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs is quite justifiably on so many jazz lovers’ (and specifically pianists’) desert island piano trio lists that it feels like heresy to name any other as my favorite Roy trio album. So here I am being heretic, because I just can’t get enough of this record featuring Phineas Newborn, Jr. and Paul Chambers. Imbued with the blues from start to end, it’s also modern and hip – for Roy himself being in the spotlight, I semi-arbitrarily chose their version of this swinging Ray Bryant tune.

5 ) “Snap Crackle” from Out of the Afternoon recorded 1962

This Haynes original at a relaxed tempo is indeed cracklin’, with Roy’s remarkable drumming supporting of and supported by the flute and saxophones of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Tommy Flanagan’s piano, and Henry Grimes’ bass.

6 )  “Das’ Dat” from It’s Time by Jackie McLean recorded 1964

For all the talk about how hard Roy can swing, we don’t often hear about examples of him laying down a greasy shuffle. Well, he’s great at that too, as evidenced by this edgy yet bluesy track by J-Mac, also featuring Charles Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, and Cecil McBee.

7 ) “Green Chimneys” from Homecoming recorded 1992

Roy’s profile and voice as a bandleader really stepped into another gear in the 1990s, as evidenced by this gorgeous recording, cut live in Boston with an important edition of his quartet with Craig Handy, Dave Kikoski, and Ed Howard. This was neither his first nor last time recording this Monk chestnut.

8 ) “Straight Up and Down” from Like Minds with Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, and Dave Holland, recorded 1997

I’m totally cheating here in that there are such important records that Roy did with Gary Burton, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny, that by covering all of them (plus frequent batterymate Dave Holland) in one go-round I can tip the hat to this ridiculously influential body of work. And far from geezers reminiscing about old times by the shuffleboard deck, all involved are utterly burnin’ on this tricky and fast-paced Chick tune.

9 ) “The Best Thing for You” from Love Letters recorded 2002

Speaking of burnin’ and fast-paced, here we hear how effortless an uptempo swing tune can be, as Roy hardly seems to break a sweat while prodding this quartet featuring Kenny Barron (whose own Wanton Spirit record is another great example of 1990s Roy), Joshua Redman, and Christian McBride.

10 ) “James” from Whereas recorded 2006

Roy’s wonderful Fountain of Youth band (here featuring Jaleel Shaw, Robert Rodriguez, and John Sullivan) plays a gorgeous version of this Pat Metheny tune, which by this point had become one of Roy’s favorite to perform.


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