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Roxbury native Haynes to be honored by Harvard

Kevin T. Cox | 4/15/2009, 6:27 a.m.
Legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes celebrates his 84th birthday at the Union United Methodist Church, on Saturday, March 14, 2009. Haynes will be honored this week as the 2009 Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard University. Lolita Parker Jr.

“They don’t hear it on the radio, so it seems like black people know less about jazz than anybody.”

Haynes remembers a time when the music and the musicians were tightly woven into the fabric of the black community.

“I opened Birdland with Charlie Parker in 1949, and people would stand out in the rain and in the snow. And black people were not known for standing out in the rain and snow,” he laughs. “We would go places in the South, Jim Crow areas where we couldn’t stay at the white hotels. We would go to the black section of town and people would always take us in. In those days, we were all closer. That’s missing today.”

Still, Haynes sees a bright future for jazz in the many younger musicians he has mentored and inspired, such as his concert’s special guest, Roy Hargrove. They have played together many times, and share much more than first names and last initials.

“Lots of times, if I’m playing some place like the Village Vanguard in New York, [Hargrove will] pop in and come right up and start playing with us,” Haynes says. “We’ve got a thing going without words …”

Haynes’ April 15-18 Harvard residency provides a unique opportunity for students and fans of music to listen to, learn from and experience one of the very few living legends of jazz — a man who is more than happy to teach and share his experiences and his music.

“Music is a great thing, it’s like a religion,” Haynes says. “It can take you out of your problems and get your mind off of whatever it’s on. Listen to some real live music — so-called jazz or otherwise. Listen to music. Listen to music, regardless of what type of music it is. Listen to music!”