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Bright Moments With Louis Hayes

The master drummer Louis Hayes discusses his storied past and swinging present on record

Photo of Drummer Louis Hayes (photo by Janette Beckman)
Drummer Louis Hayes (photo by Janette Beckman)

On May 31, drummer Louis Hayes celebrated his 80th birthday and a new album at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York, surrounded by friends, collaborators and acolytes,including drummers Michael Carvin, Nasheet Waits and Eric McPherson, and trumpeters Jimmy Owens and Jeremy Pelt, the latter of whom sat in. Another presence loomed large: pianist-composer Horace Silver, the subject of Hayes’ recent Blue Note debut, Serenade for Horace, a heartfelt tribute to the man who gave Hayes his start in 1956 with “Señor Blues.” It was the beginning of a three-year collaboration that helped codify both hard bop and the Rudy Van Gelder sound over five albums.

Hayes left Silver in 1959 to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, but the two remained close until the hard-bop progenitor’s passing in 2014. Stints followed with Oscar Peterson, the Louis Hayes-Woody Shaw Quintet, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner and the Cannonball Legacy Band, which Hayes leads. Throughout his career he’s solidified a place as one of jazz’s most soulfully swinging drummers, and become a cornerstone of the legacy of Detroit-born percussionists that includes Elvin Jones, Roy Brooks, Frank Gant and Oliver Jackson, and extends forward to Gerald Cleaver.

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