Roy Haynes: “Good Drumming Is Felt”

“Good Drumming Is Felt, Not Heard”

By Eric Kamm Published November 22, 2010

A couple of years ago, TRAPS Magazine placed Roy Haynes on the cover of the fourth issue. Not long after, the drummer invited us to watch him perform at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland.

For those of you unfamiliar with Haynes’ playing, here's the deal. Haynes is the only drummer to play with the three most influential tenor saxophonists of all time: Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane and he played on some of the most influential albums in jazz history with artists such as Eric Dolphy and Chick Corea. He has an extremely delicate touch around the kit and tunes his drums insanely high (which is where his nickname “Snap, Crackle” comes from). His signature lick is a quick snare and hi-hat triplet pattern played under a standard 4/4 ride pattern (“ding, ding, da ding”), where the triplet ostinato is made by combing two staccato snare hits with a sharp hi-hat chick (produced by the left foot snapping the two cymbals together quickly). The pattern sounds like “Did-it-uhn-Did-it uhn-Did-it.” You can hear him play the lick on the title track of Pat Metheny’s Question And Answer record, which happens to be my favorite Haynes drum track. Given who he's played with and the fact that he's been doing it since the late 1940's, it's not reaching to say that Roy Haynes influenced everyone. Over a decade ago I asked Bill Stewart who his biggest influences were--the first name that popped out of his mouth was Roy Haynes. Last but not least, Roy Haynes is an entertainer. His wardrobe matches his drumming in both intensity and style.

Here’s what I learned from him the night that DRUM! Publisher Phil Hood and I hung out with him backstage at Yoshi’s.

The tie Haynes wore on the cover of TRAPS #4 was designed by Miles Davis, who happened to be the previous owner as well.

Roy has one of the most original styles on the drum set of all time. When Phil asked him when he became “Roy Haynes,” the drummer replied that he had always been Roy Haynes, but that when he first started working he had to play more conservatively in order to pay his bills. I guess even the most innovative musicians have to pay their dues at some point.

The producer of Oliver Nelson’s The Blues And The Abstract Truth originally wanted Philly “Joe” Jones to play on the session.

Out of the blue, Haynes looked at Phil and I and said that someone once told him “good drumming is felt, not heard.” He said that he always remembered that. I wonder if he thought about that before he took the stage with John Coltrane in Newport, back in 1963. Because you can feel it.

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