One of the most accurate ways to understand jazz these days is through Roy Haynes’s cymbal beat. On Saturday night at the Rose Theater, for about three-quarters of his stage time, he tilted his head toward his ride cymbal and drove a changing stream of swing through it, using every other sound — from the snare drum, kick drum and the rest of his kit — as circulating accents around that primary force. It was mesmerizing, affirmative, flexible and incredibly artful. It made internal sense.
“An Evening With Roy Haynes” opened Jazz at Lincoln Center’s new season, and marked a birthday: Mr. Haynes turned 85 in March, which doesn’t make much sense at all. He played in the first half with his working quartet, the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, and in the second half with a heavy ad-hoc group: Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Danilo Pérez on piano and Dave Holland on bass. Mr. Haynes makes ordinary gigs feel special — it can seem as if he never learned how to be glib — but here, in the second half especially, he was especially fine. He got all the way in.
He filled the dimensions of the theater, making you hear his bass drum accents in the back rows. But he never numbed you by doing everything loudly all the time. The first important bebop drummers, of which he was one, used silences and moderation and self-imposed restrictions to make their sneaked upbeats pop more vividly.
Instead of making his sound a static thing, Mr. Haynes was flickering: working for the benefit of the music as well as the benefit of the show, even when laying back or making no sound at all. Several times he got up from his stool, prowled around the kit, shaking his shoulders and legs, and clicked his sticks together, or whacked a floor tom, or hit the edge of the cymbal at the start of a new chorus. Once he made the band sink into a period of silence and reanimated it with something like a kick-drum heartbeat. Once he got up in Mr. Garrett’s face and twirled a stick. Once, absorbing the feeling of a tune at his own speed after the rest of the band had started it, Mr. Haynes waggled the stick in his right hand, playing the air for a minute, like a draftsman preparing to sketch. And then he leaned into his ride cymbal and started again.
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