Tanglewood jazz: Birds of a feather [an error occurred while processing this directive]
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., August 29, 2002) – The likes of a Lester Young, a Charlie Parker or a John Coltrane only come around once a decade at most. So it’s a rare few musicians who get the chance to play with paradigm-shifting jazzmen.

But running down drummer Roy Haynes’s resume is like reading a list of the greatest innovators in jazz. In addition to Young, Parker and Coltrane, Haynes worked with Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny.

There’s possibly not another musician alive who can claim such a rich legacy, which is why Haynes was asked to put together Birds of a Feather, an album and a tour that pay tribute to the late, great Charlie Parker, one of the founders of bebop -- the small-ensemble movement that revolutionized postwar jazz and that remains the primary language or grammar of the genre.

Haynes’s Birds of a Feather ensemble performs on Saturday night at Tanglewood, as part of the weekend’s Tanglewood Jazz Festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday and features six concerts in all.

Saturday night’s show, which starts at 8, is a double-bill also featuring vocalist/pianist Diana Krall and her trio. The festival kicks off on Friday night at 8 with a performance by Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and his orchestra, with Caribbean jazz flutist Nestor Torres warming up the crowd.

Saturday’s full day of jazz kicks off at 1:30 with a jazz-organ summit, featuring the Jimmy McGriff Quartet facing off against the Joey DeFrancesco Trio with special guest saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman. On Saturday at 3, pianist Sir Roland Hanna joins “Piano Jazz” hostess Marian McPartland for a live taping of her popular National Public Radio program.

Sunday’s music begins at 2 in a program featuring the Roy Hargrove Quintet and vocalist Roberta Gamborini and her group. And perennial festival favorite Dave Brubeck will bring down the curtain on this year’s jazz weekend on Sunday at 8 with a concert by his quartet.

For more information call 888-266-1200.

Haynes’s Birds of a Feather: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Dreyfus Jazz) was released earlier this year. The CD features saxophonist Kenny Garrett, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, bassist Dave Holland and pianist Dave Kikoski. The Tanglewood lineup is the same except for Christian McBride, who will play bass in the Charlie Parker tribute, which Haynes said includes Parker compositions, songs associated with Parker, and other tunes he just feels like playing.

Haynes confesses to initial misgivings about the project, which wasn’t his idea. “At first I wasn’t too excited about it,” he said in a recent phone interview from his home on Long Island, “but as we talked about it there was more interest, especially with those players.

“But it’s not like a rock project that you work on for weeks. We were in the studio for two days. And it turned out to be quite an exciting thing. We’ve already played all around Europe, in France and Italy.”

Haynes said the young players, particularly saxophonist Kenny Garrett, were never intimidated by stepping into Charlie Parker’s shoes.

“People like Kenny Garrett have so much respect for Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. They know I played with these guys. Anyway, it’s not all Charlie Parker tunes that we play. On the record they were not all his tunes either.

“Since I was Parker’s favorite drummer, and I’m still out here doing it, it’s exciting for these other musicians to come along with me.”

Charlie “Bird” Parker was “a very unique, very different type of person,” said Haynes, and it was “a very exciting period in my career, the late-Forties into the Fifties.”

“It was a great experience playing with him,” said Haynes. “I often say to people the drums seem to have played themselves. Knowing him and being around him was really quite an experience.”

Haynes said it is difficult to put into words just what was the nature of Parker’s contribution to jazz. “His sense of rhythm and harmonics was different,” said Haynes, who turned 77 years old last March.

“I was already thinking in terms of breaking the rhythm way back in the early days, before I played with him,” said Haynes. “I could do that with Charlie Parker, and even more later on with Coltrane.

“Before I was with Charlie Parker I was in a big band. With small bands you could experiment more. With a big band you’d throw the whole band off. You had things to do to keep the band in the pocket. In a small group you could play around the things and turn the rhythm around. If you’re playing with a guy like Charlie Parker, maybe he’s going to understand where you’re going, and be prepared for the unexpected. With a big band, everyone doesn’t have that quality.

“But it’s hard to explain. Sometimes you can’t. Maybe that’s why they have problems trying to market it. Some of that stuff is unexpected. That’s what real jazz fans like, to be surprised with great musical things.”

One thing Haynes has no trouble putting into words is his belief that there will be no other Charlie Parkers or John Coltranes in his or your lifetime.

“Not in my lifetime, and maybe not in anyone’s,” he said. “Everything in the world is so different these days. A lot of the younger people, they don’t know quality. Years ago, when we would buy clothes, we knew what was good. Today, the commercials you see on TV and in the papers, stuff they sell and even the food -- that’s what’s killing you, fast foods with all these chemicals.

“It’s the same with the music. It’s watered down. If it’s anything they don’t understand they don’t want to deal with it. That’s why so-called jazz is in the position it’s in. Everyone is so greedy. They want to make millions and billions immediately. In the old days it wasn’t like that. So I don’t think we’ll have any people in music like Charlie Parker. Everyone’s just so greedy and wants so much money.”

Marian McPartland on this year’s artists

In a recent phone interview, pianist and radio host Marian McPartland offered off-the-cuff reflections on some of this year’s Tanglewood Jazz Festival performers:

Roy Haynes (Saturday, 8): “I love him. He’s one of my most favorite drummers. What I love about him is he’s always been so contemporary. Some get locked into a style, but he could be a teen-ager, he’s so fresh and new every time you hear him. We played together in the late Forties when he was working for George Wein. Roy was playing with a group and Jimmy [McPartland] used to call him ‘Dixie’ Haynes.”

Arturo Sandoval (Friday, 8): “We just had him on the show. He suddenly decided he wanted to be a pianist. So he called up the producer and booked himself on the show, and said he just wanted to play piano. He’s really very good, although I made him play a couple of tunes on the horn. He’s a very good pianist. The first time on the show we couldn’t get him away from the piano. That was about ten years ago.”

Jimmy McGriff (Saturday, 1:30): “We had him a long time ago on the show. Somehow we haven’t seen each other that much. We were in an elevator going to a festival somewhere and I think we started talking and impulsively I asked him if he’d like to be on ‘Piano Jazz’ some time. He’s mostly an organ player, but he played very good piano.”

Joey DeFrancesco (Saturday, 1:30): “I used to tell him I wanted to cut his hands off at the wrist. He’s so good and so outrageous. ‘You’re ridiculous, I have to find a plot to kill you,’ I said, because of his tremendous ideas and technique. He’d just sit down and whale.”

David “Fathead” Newman (Saturday, 1:30): “I know and admire him. He’s just a good solid player who’s been around for many years and has his own style, and a very personable guy. He’s not outrageous like some of the younger guys who sometimes I have a hard time understanding what they’re playing. He always delivers.”

Diana Krall (Saturday, 8) “When she first started out -- she always tells the story of how she called and left a message on my voicemail. And of course I called her back and she couldn’t believe it that I called her back and told her I wanted her to do the show. And this was almost the beginning of her career. And at the time I told her she had to double for me, because I had broken my wrist. I was able to play with my right hand, but she had to play more bass.”

Roy Hargrove (Sunday, 2): “He recently made a string record. His playing is so romantic. I just loved having him on the show. He played such beautiful tunes. His tone and especially the slow things he does. He was kind of short on the telephone beforehand, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I hope this guy is going to be easy to get along with,’ but he was a doll.”

Dave Kikoski (Saturday, 8): “I love that guy. Interesting, he’s one of the younger guys. I found his playing fascinating harmonically. I didn’t know his name or anything. He’s a very unusual performer.”

Dave Brubeck (Sunday, 8): “We’re great pals for many years, and I can’t ever stop nagging him that he stole Joe Morello away from me. He wrote a tune for me, ‘Marian McPartland.’ He wrote it on the plane coming to the show and played it on the show, and now he’s recorded it and he plays it at shows. I’m getting free publicity. I’m afraid I’m going to get the bill some day.”

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on August 29, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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