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Roy Haynes: Birds of a Feather: A Tribute to Charlie Parker

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illustration of Roy Haynes

To say that drummer Roy Haynes is the driving force behind this session is an understatement verging on insult.

Haynes has been at the forefront of bop long enough to have earned membership in that elite of founding fathers: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Miles Davis-all of whom Haynes has played and recorded with extensively. Stylistically he follows in a direct line from Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, and, like Art Blakey and Billy Higgins, Haynes has remained faithful to experimenting in the idiom of bebop.

So it comes as no surprise that Haynes is in complete control of a combo that thrives on no-nonsense hard bop: trumpeter Roy Hargrove, alto saxist Kenny Garrett, pianist Dave Kikoski and bassist Dave Holland. Like their leader, all of the musicians on Birds of a Feather are hard-driving, take-no-prisoners players, perfect for the material they’re working with: six Parker originals and five tunes associated with Bird.

Thanks to the drummerman behind them, the band can be loose and tight at the same time. Focus on the crispness of a head such as “Diverse,” then switch to the contrapuntal give and take of the front line on “Ah Leu Cha.” With his arsenal of dynamic shadings, Haynes is never content with being a mere metronome. Haynes always has something to say on the drums, but he doesn’t dominate or overshadow. He prods, he gooses, he suggests; if there’s a call he has a response.

Haynes is one of the most melodic drummers on this planet. When the tune is “April in Paris,” or the beginning of “The Gypsy,” he provides brush strokes worthy of Cezanne. On “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” he devises an elaborate intro in which he not only sets the tempo, but he sets the mood. He is virtually part of the front line for “What Is This Thing Called Love?” And once that tune gets launched, Haynes sets a jet-propelled environment in which he quietly explodes behind each soloist without interfering with their playing. The secret lies in the fact that he is always listening, always anticipating, which is the true mark of a swinging control freak-and this is in no way pejorative. As pianist Kikoski told the album’s liner annotator, Nat Hentoff: “The accents Roy does with his different limbs are more complex than anything that came before him. What he plays on drums is the way he lives, the way he talks, the way he walks.”

If Haynes had his way, this tribute to Bird would have been recorded in a club. He loves the excitement of live interaction, as he told writer Chris Slawecki: “Playing is like therapy for me. If I don’t play for a while, when I come back to it I’m like a wild man. You gotta tie me down. It’s like letting a tiger or lion out of his cage. I try to pace myself and not overplay.”

Everyone who plays on Birds of a Feather has grown accustomed to his pace. In fact, even though Haynes will be 76 next spring, his sidemen find themselves trying to match his pace. It conjures up the title of one of the drummer’s recent releases for Dreyfus: When It Haynes It Roars.