Born Roy Owen Haynes on March 13, 1926, in Roxbury, MA. Addresses: Record company--Verve Music Group, 1755 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, website:

A versatile percussionist who has witnessed more than 50 years of jazz history, Haynes has contributed to various swing, bop, avant-garde, modal-jazz, free-jazz, fusion, and jazz-rock groups. Although he has played in the rhythm sections of practically every major jazz group since the 1940s, Haynes is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, perhaps because he has been overshadowed by the bands he played with. While such artists as Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, and Chick Corea, among numerous others, became legendary figures in jazz, Haynes did not, though he played rhythm for them all. Known as "everyone's favorite sideman," according to the All Music Guide to Jazz, Haynes began focusing on his own recordings in the 1980s and 1990s when he was well past the age when most Americans retire.

Born on March 13, 1926, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Haynes listened to his older brother's records as a kid. His brother's collection included music by Django Reinhardt, Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and the popular singers of the time. Growing up amidst Roxbury's mixed ethnic population, Haynes was also exposed to Irish and Jewish music. He was a drum major in his high school band, but after being disciplined for drumming on the classroom desks with his hands, Haynes avoided going to school altogether. Instead, he said in an interview with Down Beat, "I went to school with Lester Young and Charlie Parker and Luis Russell." Haynes added that his life as a musician took him around the world and gave him the confidence and knowledge to talk to anyone--from a stranger on the street to the king and queen of Thailand or the president of the United States.

During the early 1940s, Haynes was part of Roxbury's thriving African American subculture. He began his career by playing in swing groups and little-known Dixieland and big bands, including those led by Sabby Lewis and Frankie Newton. Bandleader Luis Russell encouraged the drummer to join him in New York City in 1945, and Haynes lived in Harlem into the early 1950s. Although Russell had never heard of him, the young drummer had come so highly recommended by an alto saxophone player named Charlie Holmes that Russell sent Haynes a one-way train ticket. Haynes started playing with Russell at New York's legendary Savoy Ballroom. "I must've had something back then," Haynes told Down Beat. "I knew I could swing. I knew that."

Afro-Cuban music was big when Haynes first arrived in New York, and jazz musicians were listening to orchestras led by Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodriguez. According to the New York Times, Haynes' "outgoing, open" sound has fueled comparisons to that of a timbale or conga player. Haynes, however, dismisses the notion, claiming that his style has always been his own. Regardless of his influences, many see Haynes as a standout drummer. "It's the way he breaks up time," pianist David Kikoski told the New York Times. "The syncopation that he developed influenced all modern drummers. It sounds natural because it is natural." Haynes contended that he just played how he felt. He told Down Beat, "As far as introducing things to jazz drumming that were different, I don't know what I did. I just had certain things in my head I wanted to play, and I played those things."

After two years, Luis Russell split up his band to go on tour, and Haynes started working with various young bandleaders who were heading smaller groups. In 1951 he turned down an offer from Dizzy Gillespie to join his big band in order to continue playing with Charlie Parker. "It was fashionable, then, to leave the big bands and play with the small groups," Haynes told the New York Times. "That's what we wanted to do--just stay in New York and gig."

Haynes spent the 1940s and 1950s behind his drum kit for such legendary acts as Lester Young, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. He played with Sarah Vaughan from 1953 to 1958 and toured the world with her. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Haynes recorded live dates for record labels EmArcy, Swing, New Jazz, Impulse!, Pacific Jazz, Mainstream, and Galaxy. In 1960 Haynes formed his own bop group, which later became the Hip Ensemble and came to play more of a jazz-rock sound. Also in the 1960s, he played with Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, and Gary Burton, and he was the principle substitute for drummer Elvin Jones in John Coltrane's legendary group. In the late 1970s, Haynes appeared on recordings by Nick Brignola, Burton, Hank Jones, and Art Pepper, among others.

In 1979 Haynes played the famed Newport and Monterey jazz festivals with Dizzy Gillespie. In 1981 he became a member of Chick Corea's band Trio Music in 1981. He toured sporadically with Corea and led various New York bop quartets in the mid 1980s. He also released several well-received records in the 1980s and 1990s, including Homecoming, When It's Haynes It Roars, Te Vou!, and True or False, which the All Music Guide to Jazz declared "easily recommended to hard bop collectors." When asked by Ben Ratliff of the New York Times when he first heard bebop music, Haynes flinched, saying he felt like he had been playing it all his life. Ratliff speculated that Haynes was part of the generation that was "young enough to swallow [bebop] whole and make an actual style of it."

Formed in the early 1990s, the Roy Haynes Trio, featuring Danilo Perez on piano and John Pattitucci on bass, released The Roy Haynes Trio on Verve/Universal in 2000. At age 75, Haynes headed back out on an American tour with his group. "I never thought I would be this age and touring," he told the New York Times. Haynes recalled in Down Beat that, in 1949, Bud Powell speculated that musicians would be playing their music ten years down the road. Almost 50 years later that music was still being played; in 1996 Chick Corea toured with Haynes to celebrate Powell's career. "I feel like I've been here a long time ago and I'm back," Haynes told Down Beat. "There have been times when they've said I've been overlooked, neglected, but I can't say that about now. I feel like I've been born again...."

by Brenna Sanchez

Roy Haynes's Career

Played in Boston swing groups, big bands, and Dixieland groups, 1940s; has played with (among others): Luis Russell's orchestra, 1944-47; Louis Armstrong, 1946; Lester Young, 1947-49; Bud Powell and Miles Davis, 1949; Charlie Parker, 1949-52; Sarah Vaughan, 1953-58; Thelonious Monk, 1958; Eric Dolphy, 1960; Stan Getz and Gary Burton, 1960s; founded the Hip Ensemble, 1960; principal substitute for Elvin Jones in John Coltrane's group, 1961-65; played with Duke Jordan, 1975; Nick Brignola, 1977-78; Burton, Hank Jones, and Art Pepper, 1978; Ted Curson, 1978-79; Joe Albany and Horace Tapscott, 1979; Dizzy Gillespie, 1979; Chick Corea's group Trio Music, 1981-; led various bop quartets in New York, 1985-86; played with Pat Metheny, c. 1989; formed Roy Haynes Trio featuring Danilo Perez & John Pattitucci, early 1990s.

Roy Haynes's Awards

Certified Jazz Master, National Endowment for the Arts, 1994; Danish Jazzpar prize, 1994; Best Contemporary Jazz Recording for Te Vou!, National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers, 1995.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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