One Note/One Phrase: Roy Haynes

One quality of a truly remarkable performance is that there is often one note and/or one phrase that can encapsulate the grace, fire, virtuosity, subtlety, or authenticity of the artist. I believe it is the duty of all Listeners and Performers to seek out, catalog, & utilize these gestures as references to further inform their aural pallets.

Roy Haynes: Solitaire

Last night I was having dinner and listening to one of my favorite records ever – We Three from Roy Haynes. The album title refers to the fact that it is a jazz trio featuring the enviable cast of Roy Haynes on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and Phineas Newborn Jr. on piano. You know an album is part of your personal solid gold all time top 5 favorite records when you can listen to it over the course of many years and still find something new to obsess over and be captivated by with each passing listen.

We Three was recorded in one session on November 14, 1958 and was the first record where Roy Haynes was the marquee name. However, you might not know this by listening. Phineas Newborn Jr's style is a blustery perpetual motion machine that is sometimes criticized for its relentless avoidance of negative space. I dig this frenetic style and love the combination of Roy's refined elegance and cool in juxtaposition to the piano.

However, it never hit me as hard as it did last night that although Roy Haynes is the name at the top of the bill, he barely plays on this track. Incidentally, Solitaire is 1 of only 6 cuts on the record; a not insignificant portion of the total! One way to look at this is to say that this was a sweet gig for Haynes – let Phineas do all the heavy lifting and take all the limelight anyway. Another is too say that it takes as much talent to know when and what not to play as it does to unpack all of your technique every time someone shines a little light on you.

Roy Haynes sits pretty on this track until 2:15 before he comes in and fills out the pocket with a single cymbal and one hand. It is spartan. It is monastic. It is perfect for it's time and place. What it is not, is technically impressive, but no one ever said that beauty needs to be complex. You dig?