Haynes was born in Boston in 1925 and made his professional debut at the age of 17. He came out of the bebop era, but in the 1940s played with both Lester Young and Charlie Parker, so he was hardly defined by any single style. He spent five years with Sarah Vaughan in the 1950s, but he also worked with those on the more experimental edges of jazz, such as Coltrane, Andrew Hill, and Eric Dolphy.
As a sideman, Haynes appeared on Vaughan’s In the Land of Hi-Fi (among others), Monk’s Live at the Five Spot, Rollins’ Brass & Trio, Dolphy’s Outward Bound, Getz’s Focus, Oliver Nelson’s The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Jackie McLean’s Destination... Out!, Coltrane’s Newport ’63, and on and on. He’s also recorded as a leader since 1954’s Busman’s Holiday. Two of my favorites are We Three (with Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers; 1958) and Out of the Afternoon (1962). There’s also a recently released (2007) 3-CD career retrospective - A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story - which is highly recommended.
His playing modes range from hard swinging to bebop to jazz fusion and the avant-garde, but he is always identifiably Roy Haynes. He has a percolating effect on the drums: popping on the snare, sometimes implying the beat more than playing it (playing with the time), and bringing the cymbal playing to the foreground. He’s long been known as “Snap Crackle” in acknowledgment of this electric and pulsing sound.
On November 6, Haynes made a stop at the San Francisco Jazz Festival with his band, the aptly named Fountain of Youth: Jaleel Shaw on alto and soprano sax, Martin Bejerano on piano, and John Sullivan on bass. There were very few showy drum solos during the evening, but Haynes made everyone in the band sound better with his constantly inventive playing. One gets a very strong sense of Haynes listening to what the others are playing and reacting instantaneously - he’s the group’s central nervous system, sending out rhythmic pulses of energy across the synapses to keep everyone swinging. You are always aware of what he’s rapping out on the drums, and he keeps your rapt attention.