Roy Haynes: Think Dynamics All The Time

SKF NOTE: Among my boxes of drumming memorabilia are a couple of legal size folders from Charlie Perry full of written material. Charlie was a noted drum teacher and author. His best known method book, perhaps, is The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming, which Charlie co-authored with Jack DeJohnette. Charlie Perry also had an early rock drum method book with Gary Chester.

I studied briefly with Charlie, and he was an early Modern Drummer fan and Advisory Board member. How did I end up with Charlie’s file folders? Who knows? Charlie seemed always to have writing ideas looping through his imagination. It’s probable Charlie handed me these file folders, asking me to look them over, and do something with the contents. Do what? If I ever knew, I have forgotten.

Charlie Perry’s folder has a two-page photocopy of a LUDWIG DRUMMER magazine interview, circa 1966, with vibraphonist Gary Burton, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Roy Haynes. At the time, the thee musicians were playing with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. “One objective in the following discussion is to describe to LUDWIG DRUMMER readers how we approach rhythm section playing in general,” says Gary Burton in opening the interview.

In this excerpt, Gary Burton is talking with Roy Haynes about his bass drum technique.

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Roy Haynes: A lot of times [the bass drum] should be felt and not heard.

Gary Burton: Roy, I notice you play the bass drum pretty much all the time, for all levels of intensity. But there is so much control needed with that, which you do very well.

Do you have any guide lines that you go by, to maintain this style? What could you tell a student drummer or offer some suggestions about attaining this kind of control of the bass drums?

RH: I would tell them to think dynamics all the time….

GB: I mean, when to go up and when to go down. When I said you played the bass drum most of the time, or all of the time, I wonder why and how you play the bass drum al of the time?

RH: I play the bass drum very lightly so it can be felt for support only, mainly for the bass player, who should, with this proper support, feel free to play anything he wants.

GB: This is contrary to the usual thought that if the bass drum was being played, there would be less freedom.

RH: For instance, what I like to do behind  bass solo, naturally, is not play the beat itself, but just the beat every now and then. And when I hear I’m getting sort of involved in the meaning of the solo, then I change to something related to it, not necessarily playing any rhythm pattern, just playing different notes, probably melodic, and so forth. Sometimes I would just rather lay out until near the end of the solo, and come back in gradually.

GB: I think what we are going for there is the give and take. If a soloist takes a very dominant role, you kind of want to let him take over. You know, it would be interesting to me if I heard you laying out when I was playing a solo, sometime.

RH: Right.

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