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Roy Haynes in His Own Hip Way

Catching up with the most influential living drummer in jazz

Ornette Coleman, Christian McBride, Roy Haynes and Sonny Rollins

Roy Haynes was an ace cutup one recent Friday night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, an imperious jester playing the crowd. “Should I sing something?” he polled the room, knowing the answer he’d receive. Then he asked for requests, sauntering over to the piano, the spotlight trailing him closely enough to catch a gleam off his white satin suit.

“‘Round Midnight,” somebody shouted. He cocked an eyebrow, waited a beat. “It begins to telllll,” he sang, using Bernie Hanighen’s lyrics to the Thelonious Monk song. His pianist, David Kikoski, hesitated a moment, unsure of the key. Haynes grinned wolfishly. Then he resumed singing, but he’d moved on to “Moody’s Mood for Love,” with half-baked gag lyrics made up on the spot. Laughing, he tried one more non sequitur, this time into “The Gambler,” the country tune made famous by Kenny Rogers:

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