Born Louis Sedell Hayes on May 31, 1937, in Detroit, MI; married Nisha; children: one daughter. Education: Attended the Wurlitzer School of Music. Addresses: Agent--Baratz & Browne, Inc., 161 East 88th St., 6E, New York, NY 10128, (212) 348-1847.

Louis Hayes has been lucky enough to do what he loves best for well over half a century. During that time he has become one of the most recorded jazz drummers in history, contributing to hundreds of records. His Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band is dedicated to playing and recording the jazz of the 1950s and 1960s.

Hayes grew up surrounded by music. His father, an autoworker, was an amateur drummer and piano player; his mother played the piano; his cousin, Clarence Stamps, was a drummer; and his brother, Gerald, grew up to play the saxophone professionally. It's no surprise that Hayes also became a musician. "When I was little, my parents had instruments around the house, piano and drums," he told the Hipster Ezine online. "I started on piano for a while but I really was attracted to the drums, because my cousin Clarence Stamps played and he taught me a lot about the basics," he said. "It was really happening in Detroit back then."

Hayes began studying the drums with his father and then with Stamps. As a teen, he studied at the Wurlitzer School of Music from 1951-52. He then began leading his own group in a local Detroit club called Klein's Show Bar. He joined Yusef Lateef's very successful group in the mid-1950s. Lateef, another Detroit native, played the tenor saxophone, flute, and oboe. Hayes's energetic drumming captivated the group's audiences.

In 1956 Hayes moved to New York City to play with pianist Horace Silver's sophisticated jazz band. His natural hard beat was a perfect match for Silver's compositions. He gained an even wider audience for his role on the Six Pieces of Silver album, particularly on the most popular piece on the hit album, "Señor Blues." He recorded five albums with the Silver, touring Europe with the group in March of 1959.

After three years with Horace Silver, he joined the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, driving the rhythm for the group that became the standard for soul-style jazz. On the Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club website, Hayes recalled his years with the quintet as "one of the best experiences of my life, both personally and musically." The article describes Hayes's "'buoyant, yet driving foundation' for Adderley's quintet at a period when the group was making soul-jazz history." The quintet introduced Hayes to Sam Jones, the group's bassist. Hayes and Jones worked well together, often as sidemen for other groups and recordings. "Sam and I had this great rapport on and off stage," Hayes said to Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press. "We were so similar in the way we thought about time and the way we felt the beat. He was Mr. Dependable. The sound of Sam and I playing together just laid out this red carpet for anyone who played with us."

Hayes stayed with the group until 1965, when he joined the Oscar Peterson Trio, beginning a cantankerous relationship. Hayes liked Peterson, but sometimes found the work limiting. He would occasionally criticize Peterson in public, and many times Peterson would fire him, only to rehire him the next day. Fortunately, during this time he made many recordings on the Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside labels with other musicians including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Dexter Gordon, Woody Shaw, McCoy Tyner, and many other jazz legends. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was one of the most recorded drummers in jazz. In 1967-68, he codirected the Jazz Communicators group with Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson.

In 1972 Hayes formed the Louis Hayes Sextet. The group went through several transformations, becoming the Louis Hayes-Junior Cook Quintet, and then, in 1975, morphing into the Woody Shaw-Louis Hayes Quintet. The group played throughout Europe and the United States. Hayes gained a reputation for his hard-bop style, and was soon leading groups on his own with some well-known sidemen, including Charles Tolliver and Charles McPherson. He began recording extensively as a freelance musician. "The heart of Hayes' style is the unique way he phrases the ride cymbal beat--the ding-dinga-ding rhythm at the core of modern jazz," explained Stryker. "The cymbal beat is like a drummer's DNA; no two will be exactly alike. Hayes plays with a crisp but elusive quality, like a hummingbird. He places his beat just ahead of the basic pulse, never committing the sin of rushing, but generating the forward momentum of a downhill skier."

While freelancing was artistically pleasing, it did not always generate a lot of money. In the 1980s, when he had a daughter entering college, Hayes went back to working steadily in groups. In 1983-84, he codirected a quartet with Joe Farrell, and toured with the McCoy Tyner trio in 1985. He also toured with Freddie Hubbard in 1994. Jazz: The Rough Guide called Hayes "an alert and driving accompanist since his earliest professional days, Hayes rapidly matured into a versatile and dependable group player whose work is consistently exciting."

For a time in the 1980s and 1990s Hayes concentrated on playing gigs and recording as a sideman. In 1997, however, he came back to lead recording, releasing Louis at Large. Thomas Conrad of Down Beat stated, "Louis at Large is Hayes' first domestic recording as a leader in nearly 20 years, and it is strong stuff. It has the naked aggression of the classic drummer-led ensembles of Hayes' generation." In a separate article in the same issue, also by Conrad, Down Beat further stated that the recording displays Hayes's own signature. "It has to do with his hissing, shimmering top cymbal and how he relentlessly pushes the beat and the way he incites soloists with whiplash breaks and fills."

In the late 1990s Hayes began leading two outstanding quintets. The Louis Hayes Quintet is a hard-bop group, while the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band pays tribute to the late Adderley brothers, Julius (Cannonball), the famous saxophone player, and Nat, the well-known trumpet player. The group plays songs with hard-bop energy, releasing a CD in 2002 entitled Dreamin' of Cannonball.

Mike Joyce of the Washington Post described a Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band performance in June of 2002, saying, "Hayes, in typically discreet form, soloed only once during the evening, but his presence was always felt as he adroitly modulated the rhythmic tension and swing pulse during what turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining tribute."

As time goes on, Hayes finds himself spending more time practicing. "The older you get, the harder things get," he told the Detroit Free Press. "I could do things when I was younger that now I really have to practice to even attempt to be able to do. My peak was when I was about 40--I was liable to do anything." Hayes and his wife, Nisha, live in the Riverdale area of New York City in a co-op overlooking the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge.

by Sarah Parkin

Louis Hayes's Career

Worked in Detroit with Yusef Lateef prior to moving to New York City to join Horace Silver, 1956; joined the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, 1959; played with the Oscar Peterson Trio, 1965-67 and 1971-72; has freelanced extensively, working and recording with multiple groups, both as a leader and as a sideman; paid tribute to the Adderley brothers by traveling and recording with the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, beginning late 1990s.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 15 years ago

Hi Louis!..caught you in Detroit at the DJF acouple times lately--great shows!..I was with Rufus in the NYC area mid-5os about the time you came to NY.."Speedy" went on with Red Allen, Ferguson, Basie, etc...I have been researching for his son, Lebrew, you have any personal experiences or info about Rufus..please contact me if you have anything at all--very little is recorded about his life, which ended sadly in '90 in Vegas...Thanks!..Don

over 16 years ago

Hay Lou: Wanted to wish you and your family good health and continued prosperity. My family is well and wanted to express our friendship in this way.. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Years. Shot!