Cult Classic: Roy Haynes-Hip Ensemble.

In the history of jazz music, Roy Haynes’ name looms large. He is one of the most recorded drummers in jazz history, and during a career that spanned sixty years, Roy Haynes worked with the great and good of jazz music. This included Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Wardell Grey, Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan. Roy’s also a truly versatile drummer. 

Referring to Roy as versatile is no exaggeration. Roy Haynes is one of the most versatile drummers in jazz history and could play swing, bebop, hard bop, free jazz, fusion and avant-garde jazz. However, it wasn’t just jazz Roy could play. 

Later in his career, Roy found himself sharing the stage with Southern Rock legends The Allman Brothers. Then Roy collaborated with Page McConnell of indie-rockers Phish. However, there was more to Roy’s career than working as a sideman. He enjoyed a successful solo career.

It was sixty years ago, in 1954 that Roy’s solo career began. That was when he released his debut album Busman’s Holiday. This was just the first of over twenty albums Roy Haynes as a solo artist including his 1971 album Hip Ensemble. By then, Roy Haynes was one of the most experienced drummers in jazz music. Roy had come a long way since his early days in Boston.

Roy Hayes was born in Boston, on March 13th 1925. He grew up in a musical family. His father played organ and his mother sung in the church choir. Growing up, it was always Roy’s ambition to play the drums. His dream came true when Roy’s brother, a roadie for Cab Calloway’s sister Blanche, introduced him to Jo Jones. For Roy this was a dream come true. Jo Jones was Roy’s hero since he heard him playing with the Count Basie Orchestra. This inspired Roy to became a drummer.

His dream came true in 1944. That’s when Roy started playing with bands in the Boston area. Roy’s breakthrough came when he got the chance to tour with Luis Russell. He was a member of Luis’ band between 1945 and 1947. Then Roy joined Lester Young’s group.

Joined Lester Young’s group was akin to a musical apprenticeship. Having served his time, Roy left Lester Young’s group and headed to New York. Bebop was calling. That Roy realised was jazz’s future. He was a member of Bud Powell, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker’s bands. His time with Bird’s band allowed Roy the freedom to develop his own style. Soon, he was one of jazz’s top drummers. So much so, he was offered the chance to become Duke Ellington’s drummer. Roy declined the opportunity. He decided to stay with Bird’s band until 1953, when he joined Sarah Vaughan’s band.  

For five years, Roy played with Sarah Vaughan’s band. He wasn’t just her drummer. Roy was also a backing vocalist. His time with Sarah Vaughan lasted to 1958, when Roy decided to return to playing with smaller bands. It was also during his time with Sarah Vaughan that Roy’s solo career began.

By 1954, Roy’s solo career began. He released two albums that year, Busman’s Holiday and Roy Haynes Modern Group. This was just the first of over twenty albums Roy Haynes as a solo artist

Two years later, Roy embarked upon the first of many colaboration. He and Quincy Jones collaborated on Jazz Abroad. Then in 1958, the year Roy left Sarah Vaughan’s band, he collaborated with Phineas Newborn Jr. and Paul Chambers on We Three.

Having left Sarah Vaughan’s band, Roy decided to play with smaller bands. He was a talented drummer whose services were always in demand. Especially among some of the top jazz musicians.

In 1958, Thelonius Monk was looking for a drummer and saxophonist. He had a residency at the Five Spot in New York. However, he needed a drummer and saxophonist. Roy and John Coltrane were hired. They were part of the band who played a series of legendary dates at the Five Spot in New York. For Roy, his career was on the up and up. So it’s no surprise that as a new decade dawned, Roy decided to concentrate on his solo career.

During the sixties, Roy was at his most prolific as a solo artist. The decade started with 1960s New Dawn. Two years later, Roy was signed Impulse and released Out of the Afternoon in 1962. Then in 1963 Roy and Booker Ervin collaborated on Cracklin.’ Just like Roy’s solo album Cymbalism, it was released on New Jazz in 1963. A year later, Roy released People, which was Roy’s final solo album of the sixties. His only other release was with the George Ohtsuka Trio. For the remainder of the sixties, Roy was content to be a sideman, playing with Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and Stan Getz. However, as the seventies dawned, Roy decided it was time to record again.

Roy had formed a new band, The Hip Ensemble in May 1969. His new group was made up of mainly young jazz musicians. Roy at forty-four was the elder statesman. They made their debut on Roy’s 1971 album Hip Ensemble. It was released on Bob Shad’s Mainstream in 1971 and featured an eclectic mix of songs.

Hip Ensemble features six songs. Roy contributed I’m So High and Tangiers. George Adams wrote Satan’s Mysterious Feeling and You Name It. The other tracks were Stanley Cowell’s Equipoise and Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal’s Nothing Ever Changes For You My Love. These six songs became Hip Ensemble, which marked the recording debut of The Hip Ensemble.

When recording of Hip Ensemble began, Roy had put together a tight, talented band. The rhythm section featured Roy on drums and timpani, bassist Teruo Nakamura and Mervin Bronson on Fender bass. Percussion came courtesy of Elwood Johnson om bongos, Lawrence Killian on congas and Elwood Johnson on tambourine. They were joined by pianist Carl Schroeder, flautist and tenor saxophonist George Adams and trumpeter Marvin Peterson. Once Hip Ensemble was recorded, it was released in 1971.

On its release in 1971, Hip Ensemble failed to chart. Jazz was no longer as popular. Rock was now King. What didn’t help was that Roy hadn’t released a solo album for seven years. That’s a long time for any artist. However, that wasn’t the end of The Hip Ensemble. They recorded two further albums for Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records, 1972s Equipoise and 1973s Senyah. Hip Ensemble, which I’ll tell you about, was just the start of Roy Haynes Mainstream trilogy.

Opening Hip Ensemble is Equipoise, a mid-tempo track. Drums, cymbals and braying horns unite confidently. They produce a melancholy sounding track. As the horns carry the melody, Roy pounds his drums. There’s an urgency in his playing. With the bass, he drives the arrangement along. However, the horns play starring roles. First they playing in unison. Then the solos come round. This affords them the opportunity to enjoy their moment in the sun. The same can be said of the rest of The Hip Ensemble. Together, they play their part in a track that veers between moody to melancholy and urgent to dramatic.

The rhythm section propel the arrangement to I’m So High along. It’s a funky track where keyboards sit above the strolling arrangement. Braying horns enter. They’re almost free jazz in style. They provide a contrast to the rest of the arrangement. It’s funky and swings. Especially with Roy helping drive the arrangement along. Later, the horns change tack. The free jazz influence is gone and the horns help this sultry, funky slice of jazz along.

Tangiers offers Roy the opportunity to showcase why in 1971, he was one of the top jazz drummers. He takes centre-stage before the arrangement unfolds. Wailing horns, a pounding piano and wistful flute intertwine. Again, there’s a free jazz influence as The Hip Ensemble explore the subtleties and nuances of this Roy Haynes’ penned track. It heads in the direction of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz and funk. Roy is at the heart of the action. He pounds his drums and unleashes a series of rolls. It’s apparent that The Hip Ensemble are marching to the beat of Roy’s drum on this innovative, adventurous track.

Nothing Ever Changes For You My Love bursts into life. It’s driven along by blazing horns. Providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section. Teruo Nakamura gives a masterclass on the bass. He plays at breakneck speed, as the rhythm section become one. They’re accompanied by keyboards. They too play an important role, adding texture to the arrangement. Then there’s the horns. Quite simply, they steal the show. George Adams and Marvin Peterson are a perfect foil for each other. It’s as if they’re egging each other on, as they try to reach previously unreached heights. This makes for compelling listening as a familiar song is reinvented.

Satan’s Mysterious Feeling is another George Adams’ song. Roy’s drums opens the track. He injects some funk into the arrangement. His kick drum pounds and his hi-hats hiss. He’s augmented by mesmeric keyboards and braying, blistering horns. They kick loose as the track heads in the direction of jazz-fusion. All the time, Roy’s keeping it funky. So is Carl Schroeder, courtesy of his hypnotic keyboard playing. Similarly, mesmeric are the horns. Marvin Peterson unleashes what’s easily one of his best solos. He’s set the bar high for George Adams. When his tenor saxophone enters, he’s not going to give up without a fight. George delivers a blistering solo, while the rest of The Hip Ensemble play a supporting role. It’s almost as good as Marvin’s and plays an important part in the highlight of Hip Ensemble.

Closing Hip Ensemble is a medley of You Name It and Lift Every Voice and Sing, which is often referred to as the African American national anthem. Keyboards and hissing hi-hats join forces before grizzled horns enter. Along with the rhythm section they drive the arrangement along. Just like previous tracks, the horns get the opportunity to shine. George and Marvin relish the opportunity. This isn’t a band comprising two people. Roy’s drumming veers between understated and thoughtful to urgent and powerful. Soon, everyone gets a chance to shine. Carl Schroeder on keyboards goes toe-to-toe with Roy’s drums. Later, Roy takes charge and delivers a masterclass on drums. It’s a tantalising taste of one of jazz’s top drummers in full flight. After that, the band join together and play a moving version of You Name It and Lift Every Voice and Sing. It’s interspersed with some of Roy’s trademark licks. That’s the perfect way to close Hip Ensemble, which featured the debut of Roy Haynes’ new band The Hip Ensemble.

After seven years away from a recording studio, Roy Haynes was back. He was excited. He’d put together some of the most talented and exciting young jazz players. Formed in May 1969, Roy had spent two years moulding The Hip Ensemble into a tight unit. They were similar to Roy.

Just like Roy Haynes, The Hip Ensemble were a versatile band. They could seamlessly switch between musical genres, sometimes, in the space of one track. Not many bands are capable of that. The Hip Ensemble were. There’s a reason for this. Roy had put together a talented and versatile band.

Joining Roy in the rhythm section were bassist Teruo Nakamura and Mervin Bronson on Fender bass. They provided Hip Ensemble’s heartbeat. Then there was pianist Carl Schroeder. He added texture to the six tracks. Playing starring roles were tenor saxophonist George Adam and trumpeter Marvin Peterson. When they kick loose, it’s a joy to behold. Unlike some bandleaders, Roy wasn’t scared to allow his band to shine. Given the opportunity to shine, George and Marvin shawn like the brightest stars. They play an important part in what’s an adventurous, inventive and innovative jazz album. Sadly, Hip Ensemble, failed commercially. 

The reason for that is twofold. Jazz was no longer as popular. Rock music was King. Since the late sixties, jazz’s popularity had plummeted. Things had gotten so bad for jazz, that many jazz venues were now rock venues. For jazz musicians like Roy Haynes, this was a disaster. What didn’t help that Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records was an independent label. It didn’t have the same budget to promote an album as Blue Note, Impulse or Capitol. Without a promotional campaign behind it, Hip Ensemble failed commercially. However, thankfully, music lovers have the opportunity to rediscover Hip Ensemble.

For too long, Hip Ensemble has lain unloved in Mainstream’s vaults. Belatedly, Hip Ensemble has been rediscovered. It features Roy Haynes’ jazz supergroup The Hip Ensemble, which contained some of the most exciting and talented musicians of the late sixties and early seventies. The Hip Ensemble, kick loose, and work their magic on six spellbinding tracks that comprise on what’s one of Roy Haynes’ finest solo albums Hip Ensemble.

Cult Classic: Roy Haynes-Hip Ensemble.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: