First Listen: Roy Haynes, 'Roy-alty' At 86, the legendary drummer is an elder statesman with a youthful spirit and a crackling cymbal stroke. On his new album, Roy-alty, Haynes leads his Fountain of Youth quartet, with Roy Hargrove and Chick Corea making guest appearances.
NPR logo First Listen: Roy Haynes, 'Roy-alty'

First Listen: Roy Haynes, 'Roy-alty'

Roy Haynes' new album, Roy-alty, comes out Sept. 13. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Roy Haynes' new album, Roy-alty, comes out Sept. 13.

Courtesy of the artist

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Sometimes, at jazz shows, you may notice that the bandleader is older than many of his or her bandmates. Often, that's an artistic decision; younger players are good sources of unique talents and fresh ideas. It can be a logistical move, too — who's available for the gig; who can do it for the money offered. And, of course, there's mentorship: Jazz musicians know they're responsible for the propagation of their relatively niche art form, so they take it upon themselves to give potential stars some actual experience.

These days, the drummer Roy Haynes often tours with a band called Fountain of Youth. It's a playful name; at 86, Haynes is still deeply respected for his abilities. (Incidentally, he is by critical consensus the most historically important jazz drummer alive.) It also refers to the fact that Haynes' bandmates are some 50-odd years younger than he is.

Roy-alty, Haynes' new album of classics and underheard repertory (out Sept. 13), is anchored by the Fountain of Youth band. It's a quartet — Jaleel Shaw, alto sax; Martin Bejerano, piano; David Wong, bass; plus Haynes — and it's joined frequently by other guests, including the stellar trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Haynes' drums are high in the mix; you can really hear his frequent interjections of snare chatter, tom punches or cymbal resonance. He's long been known by the nickname "Snap Crackle," and you can hear why.

In the middle of all this, pianist Chick Corea appears in two duets: a twitchy, power-chord gallop through Thelonious Monk's "Off Minor" — yes, Haynes was in Monk's band in 1958 — and an unplanned, improvised meditation called "All the Bars Are Open." (Get it?) They're two clear highlights here, which makes sense: Haynes and Corea have been playing together for more than 40 years, encompassing at least one classic record.

It's worth remembering here that Haynes was once the young newcomer on the scene, picked up by saxophonist Lester Young for a few years in 1947. The rest is well-documented: stints with Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, John Coltrane ... this could go on for a while. That's a long time to be keeping time. But if you listen to any record featuring Roy Haynes, you'll find he does a lot more than just keep time.