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Saturday, 15 September 2012 17:00

Jazz Drumming : Roy Haynes

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Arguably, the history of the drumset begins with jazz music.

Prior to putting all the percussion instruments into a kit designed for one player, the role for each of the instruments was given to a single performer. One musician would play the snare, another the bass drum, and another the cymbals. This was a tradition carried over from orchestral music and which later found its way into Dixieland, the jazz-style born in New Orleans in the early 1900's; which is not really all that long ago in the grand scheme of musical history. If you visit New Orleans today, this is still how you'll see it done in places like Preservation Hall and in the parades of musicians that are known to wander the streets for various carnivals and celebrations.


In the relatively short but ongoing history of the drumset, there have been many great jazz drummers that helped to define how the instrument would be played, expanding its role in small and large ensembles, and also as a solo instrument. The great drummers were able to develop a style and sound that was unique to them, and easily recognizable. Unfortunately, many of these great players that helped to create jazz music are no longer around.

One drummer comes to mind though, Roy Haynes, who began his career in the late 1940's in the bebop era playing with the likes of Charlie Parker and others, that still plays to this day. He has been a force of change throughout jazz's history, as both a sideman and a band leader, and through all of it's sub-genres, helping to change the function of the instrument from merely the role of time-keeping into an instrument with conversational and melodic possibilities. More than any of the instruments on the drumset, it's the way a drummer plays the ride cymbal that really defines a player, and Roy Haynes is no exception, known for breaking up the traditional jazz ride cymbal pattern and creating rhythms that were complex and went over-the-barline. Haynes also has a crackling snare drum sound, and a tendency to tune his drums on high side.

Below is a video of Roy Haynes from what looks like the 1970's, judging by all the hip suits the musicians are wearing.

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