Roy Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band @ Jazz Standard, 5/21/11

In close-quarters, a lively buzz filled the packed room. Jazz fans were drinking wine and ordering Blue Smoke Ale in the underground den waiting for legendary drummer Roy Haynes to appear. Haynes, who was born in 1925 and has been playing the drums professionally since 1945, has worked with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane among other legends. Tonight, he was running late.

The band came on stage eventually. Haynes was wearing sunglasses, and the group started into a piece with a sexy saunter. The musicians worked their way into a groove and quicker numbers were to follow. Throughout the night Haynes was tippity-tapping along on his hi-hat, lightly brushing the snare drum or beating out hard-hitting drum solos. Jaleel Shaw was clean on the alto sax with sailing notes. He wiggled his body, getting into the sound, his knees bent, body leaning forward then back and blowing impossibly long breaths. Pianist Martin Bejerano bent over the keys like a mad man, playing feverishly at times, and David Wong was steady on the bass. On a fun number, “Trinkle, Tinkle,” the instruments seemed to wander apart, out on their own, and then each made its way back to join in on the unanimous “bum, bum, bum” that repeated throughout the piece.

Haynes addressed the audience after a few numbers, saying, “Good evening, how are you? Who said that end of the world stuff today? Sorry we were a little late.”

He spoke of his early career and how Lester Young listened to him try out: “He said I was swinging. If I wanted the gig, it was mine.” Haynes said Young was one of the most original men he had met and that Jo Jones, Count Basie’s drummer, was the first drummer who inspired him. He told the crowd he was making about $94 a week back then, and that he had to pay for his own hotels. He talked about playing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem: He was 20, and there were a lot of fine, young ladies there.

He said he was glad the world didn’t end and asked Bejerano to play something in D-Minor because it sounds a little haunting. “Sounds like something Billie Holiday would play,” he said, and the piano did, indeed sound haunting and maybe a little longing.

The best part of the night was when Haynes got out from behind the drums and tap-danced his way to the front of the stage, rapping his sticks together, drumming them against the front of his bass drum and on the microphone stands, joking that it was his Savion Glover impersonation. He was charming and funny. Even after all this time, it’s easy to see what Lester Young saw in Roy Haynes. The man has style.

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