Are rudiments essential to your playing? By his own admission, Roy Haynes said he wasn’t a rudimental drummer. I feel that’s what made him unique among the jazz drumming greats. His plays from influences beyond the drumming language of rudiments. Note this quote:
“I like to express certain things that happen in my life, the joy of spring, the birds singing and young babies coming into the world. You know, the whole thing as well as the part I’m not happy with, the sad part.” – Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes wasn’t alone in using non-rudimental concepts to play from. Art Blakey’s playing wasn’t highly technical, although he had good chops. Elvin Jones played by thinking about colors and the moods or textures those colors would evoke. During one of my drum lessons with legend, Bernard Purdie, he took me for a ride in his black Caddie through downtown Manhattan. He opened the sunroof and told me to look up; skyscrapers, glass, immense structure that you’d see nowhere else. He said to figure out what those sights, sounds and energy could do to motivate my playing in different directions.
So often we feel the we MUST incorporate rudiments, especially in our solos. Personally, I don’t think in rudimental terms while soloing. I’m more focused on the tune or the textures of the drums and cymbals. Can we make it more interesting if we play more textures and rhythms, rather than rudimental patterns? Listen to Roy Haynes solo and judge for yourself. By the way, he’s 85 yrs old in this video. Amazing energy.
Roy spoke about his style in this JazzTimes article: “People ask me, “What is your secret?” I never thought of things as being really a secret as far as approaching the drums and so-called jazz. I play from feeling as you can tell. I didn’t try to have a lot of sharps particularly. A lot of it is the street—the sounds of some bugles or drum rolls and stuff like marching down the street in the ghetto. I play from feeling.”